The NBA season is in danger. With some speculating the season might be canceled indefinitely, NBA nuts across the country (including myself) are getting pretty upset at the entire lockout ordeal.

But what if the season is shortened to 50 games or so? What if the season started in January and ended in April?

That’s a fun little thought to have. The consensus is that everyone is first and foremost an NFL fan, and secondarily either an NBA or baseball fan. A good chunk of people chose to flip between a 62-7 win for the New Orleans Saints and a pivotal game four of the World Series. You can expect the same kind of thing if the NBA Finals were in November, because basketball suffers early on in the season.

A season that lasts from January through April would see each team play, roughly, 50 games. (Based on the Los Angeles Lakers’ schedule, there would be 50 games from the start of January to the end of the season April.) With the NFL playoffs dominating households across the nation, there would be no Thursday night (and only a few Sunday night) football games in January, with only one game — the Super Bowl — being played in February. NBA fans who are far more interested in football, especially during the postseason, wouldn’t be missing much by the time February came around.

Because the Lakers and the New York Knicks, two teams w\h the largest fan-bases, don’t only play on Saturdays and Sundays. In fact, the Lakers only play five weekend games in January, while the Knicks only play three. And with only two to four NFL games being played, your average sports fan isn’t getting his fill, nor is he likely to be watching his hometown team in the playoffs.

Currently, Sunday morning games, which air on ABC and ESPN, begin after Christmas. Which means your Sunday morning lineup for NBA games is definitely going to interrupt with your NFL playoff schedule.

A 50-game schedule doesn’t just avoid the TV ratings’ death sentence of being engulfed in NFL football, though. A 50-game schedule emulates something that the NFL does: Keep fans hungry for more.

As of now, the entire NFL season takes up just five months (from the beginning of September to the very first week of February). The 82-game NBA season? Seven months and a week or so (starting with November all the way through the NBA Finals in early June). And, I’m sorry, but even NBA diehards have a difficult time grudging through the dog days of the NBA season in February, where it’s too soon to speculate playoff positioning and too late to be excited about intriguing games.

A 50-game schedule is short enough for NBA fans to miss something if they don’t watch basketball for a couple of weeks. That’s why the NFL is so successful: Miss a week or two of football, and all of a sudden, you’re out of the loop and the Detroit Lions are contending for their division title. Miss another week? And suddenly those same Lions are 5-2 and starting to collapse. (That’s all hypothetical, of course.)

No one’s feeling the economic impact of a shortened season save for the stadium workers. Local small businesses aren’t too hurt by the lockout that’s going on. With merchandise stores and bars across the country being overwhelmed by the love football is getting, no one cares about the NBA season being canceled … yet.

In February, March and April, those bars suddenly feel the hit. Because that’s when basketball season really starts. That’s when fans have no other outlet, when baseball season is barely starting back up and football season is already over. (I’m excluding the NHL; since when/where could you ever catch a hockey game? Seriously.)

The distractions are too abundant and that’s why we’re in a horrifyingly long lockout with two weeks of NBA basketball canceled. Fans aren’t as loud right now as they would be when they realize there’s no more football for another seven months. You might even say some diehard NBA fans want a season cancelled up until the point where football is almost over so they don’t miss anything.

Of course, an NBA season being permanently shortened to 50 games from 82 is a hell of a longshot. Owners want those seats filled for 30 extra games, even though a shortened season might fill more stadiums and bring TV ratings up. Theoretically.

But with the way the lockout negotiations are going now? We may get a nice little test run of that idea real soon.

 

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