Tuesday, January 11, 2011

18-Game NFL Schedule impacts MLB

In the world of sports and national media, the king out of all the of the sport's leagues is the National Football League.  It is playoff time for the NFL and that means that ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and blogs across the sports universe are dedicated for the next month to covering the juggernaut that is the NFL postseason.

The NFL and the NFL Player's Union are in the heat of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.  One of the central focuses of this new agreement is the plan to expand the NFL regular season from it's current 16-game schedule to an 18-game format for the 2012 season.  There are many impacts that this would have for the NFL; but another league, Major League Baseball, would also have to face some changes because of the switch.

The start of the NFL regular season already cuts into the MLB playoffs.  Baseball already has to schedule their games around the NFL's schedule to maximize their ratings.  If the NFL expands to an 18-game schedule the NFL season would be starting weeks earlier.  This could mean that, instead of the NFL interfering with MLB playoffs, the new 18-game schedule would also effect the last week of MLB games.

The last week and a half of the MLB season can be some of the most exciting games of the year.  The pennant races are coming to a close, the Wild Card spots are being fought over, and the playoff picture is coming into focus.  Over the last five seasons the Twins have had three of their pennant races go until the last day of the season and in some cases beyond that point.  Expanding the NFL season could pull even more fans away from America's Pastime.

This season there was already evidence of the NFL being able to trounce MLB when it came head-to-head match-ups.  The Monday Night Football games was the Titans vs. the Jaguars, two teams from small NFL markets that finished out of the playoff picture.  The result of the game a 30-3 trumping by the Titans.  The baseball game pitted the Yankees and the Rangers from two of the largest markets in the US.  The Rangers won the game 2-1 and Cliff Lee had another outstanding playoff appearance.  The NFL still came out on top with a higher rating.

MLB has also looked into expanding their playoffs starting in the 2012 season.  That would mean even more issues as the NFL and MLB would go head-to-head on more than one occasion.  Earlier this year I wrote about some of my solutions to the MLB playoff predicament.  As part of that article I looked at Bill Plaschke's take on fixing the playoffs .  One of his solutions was for baseball to avoid weekend games all together.  That way baseball wouldn't interfere with the college football or professional football.

As a fan I could care less about the ratings.  I am going to watch the baseball playoffs over an NFL game with two bad teams.  In that regard, I know I am in the minority.  The NFL dominates television ratings, sports coverage, and practically runs the world.  The NFL and MLB season will always overlap at some point but as both leagues try to maximize their profits there are going to continue to be butting heads.  My heart is with baseball but I would have to put my money on the NFL to come out on top.

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