The NBA, the Sports Guy, and Aversion to Change

Posted on January 31, 2012 | in Basketball, Christmas, New Ideas | by

Bill Simmons, editor-in-chief of Grantland.com and ESPN’s The Sports Guy, analyzed the 2011-2012 NBA season thus far and concluded that the league should strongly consider starting the regular season on Christmas Day every year. The NBA stages marquee matchups every season on Christmas Day and this season the league kicked off on December 25th due to the NBA lockout.

He came to the conclusion by citing scheduling conflicts with other leagues (NFL and college football in full swing during normal NBA start in October, playoffs coinciding with Major League Baseball Opening Day and the NFL draft, etc.) and take advantage of the typically dull sports month of August by offering exciting offseason activity.

However, he wonders why the league wouldn’t consider such a radical plan:

So … why wouldn’t that make sense? I keep asking People in the Know this question and get the following rebuttals:

“People go on vacation in July; our season-ticket holders don’t want to be worried about planning a vacation if their team might be in the Finals.”

(News flash: I’m pretty sure they can plan a different time to vacation and/or sell their seats. And by the way, only four of the 30 teams would even be playing in July.)

“You can’t do it because of the Summer Olympics.”

(News flash: The 2016 Summer Olympics happen from August 5 to August 21. We could easily get creative that year and end the NBA season in mid-July so there’s enough time to regroup.)

“That would suck for NBA employees — they wouldn’t get a summer vacation basically.”

(News flash: Neither do Major League Baseball employees. Also, can’t you just take the last two weeks of August off stretching into Labor Day? You’ll be fine.)

“We can’t chop seven games from the regular season — it would cost teams too much money.”

(News flash: Every player says, “I wish the season was shorter. It would be better for us.” Why not listen to them? Don’t you care about your product?)

“Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

(News flash: Those are the eight worst words in sports.)

Not only in sports, Mr. Simmons, but also in change management.

Okay, they might not be the worst words in change management, but they are certainly an example of a poor reason to not adopt better ways to do things. Just because the-way-you-did-it-before was good before, that doesn’t mean it will be good tomorrow or a year from now.

I think a lot of leagues are afraid of change, for the sake of tradition. I personally feel that Major League Baseball is doing itself a disservice by having a 162-game season followed by a playoff structure that allows only four (or five!) from each league to qualify for the playoffs. I have some scheduling/playoff expansion ideas that I’d be happy to share later, but there is a beauty to having congruent seasons for the sake of comparing players across history.

That being said, MLB switched from the 154-game season to a 162-game season in 1961 and introduced the designated hitter in 1973, so there is precedence of making radical changes to league formats.

Professor Richard Kruger of Tri-State University (my alma mater) once said “Tradition is fine as long as it doesn’t get in the way of progress.”

I hope the leagues can agree.

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2 Responses to “The NBA, the Sports Guy, and Aversion to Change”

  1. Jason says:

    Solid post. Nice to see Bill Simmons asking the 5 whys. LOL.

    It seems no matter what industry you are in, the dreaded phrase “that’s the way we have always done it” is accepted by so many people from the top down. Unless that wall can be torn down, that phrase will takes its place as a companies the unofficial mission statement.

    • Chad Walters says:

      You can’t expect better outputs if the inputs and/or the processes don’t change.

      I’d like to organize a list of statements that create barriers to change. “That’s how we’ve always done it” would probably top that list. I’m guessing someone already has such a list, but I think it’s one that can’t be shared often enough.

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