#IdeaMonth Days 18-19: 5 Lists of 5

I was bad. I didn't write yesterday. To make up for it, I'm going above and beyond today. It's an exciting time of year for sports. The NHL and NBA just began their playoffs and soccer leagues around the world (though not MLS) are nearing their end–promotion, relegation, leagues, cups, records. 

It's also a time for reflection. How could sports be improved? Here are five ideas for the major American leagues:

NBA

  1. Reduce the number of timeouts. There are too many stoppages. It slows down the game and makes players too reliant on coaching. Coaches can communicate with players while the game is being played. 
  2. Eliminate fouling out and replace it with a penalty box. This would create power plays like hockey. It could be that every few team or personal fouls gives the other team a man-advantage for a specified time.
  3. Add a 4-point line. I think the Warriors have made a strong case for this.
  4. Play the championship in Las Vegas–a neutral venue. Make it a Super Bowl.
  5. Limit substitutions

NFL

  1. Liberalize formation requirements. Who cares how a team lines up? 
  2. Make all players eligible receivers.
  3. Adopt the college football overtime format. A coin-flip should not be so decisive.
  4. Realign divisions. Playing three teams twice a season and then only 10 others once (meaning each team plays less than half of the league) results in an inadequate sample from which to choose playoff teams.
  5. Reduce the Super Bowl break to one week.
  6. BONUS! If a player commits a foul that injures another player, that player must sit out until and unless the other player returns.

NHL

  1. Give 3 points for a win (like soccer). The difference between a 2-point win and 1-point overtime/shootout loss isn't significant enough. Making a win worth more will incentivize teams to go for it.
  2. Shorten the regular season. 
  3. Related to that...play each team once at home and once away (again, like soccer). That eliminates travel advantages, which realignment improved but didn't cure.
  4. What about revenue? Going from 82 regular season games to 48 is a huge drop. It is. Why not add a concurrent cup competition (like soccer has with the Champions League, domestic cups, etc.)? Have a certain number of qualifying clubs play intermittently against the best clubs in Europe, or have an ultimate North American competition where every professional team is involved. Shine the light on the little guys, give them a chance, and create another revenue stream for the NHL.
  5. Stagger the schedule so the playoffs aren't competing directly with the NBA playoffs.

MLB

  1. Shorten the regular season. Period. 162 games? Really? This makes regular season games meaningless. A team could lose for months on end and still make the playoffs.
  2. Limit the number of pitching substitutions.
  3. Have a uniform strike zone that doesn't change and is electronically monitored and enforced.
  4. Ban tobacco.
  5. Award two points for wins and one for ties after 10 innings. Games are too long as it is. There's no reason to play for 4+ hours for a meaningless regular season game.

MLS

  1. Stop expanding. 24 teams is already too big for a top-tier league.
  2. Adopt a home-and-away schedule. It produces the fairest regular season assessment possible. Yes, you've made this hard by expanding so large.
  3. Eliminate playoffs. See No. 2.
  4. Reduce the playoffs. If you insist on playoffs, MLS, make them meaningful. Every year the format changes and too many teams are allowed to limp in. Make it a four-team playoff, with home-and-away series.
  5. Free agency. American sports leagues are anti-competitive enough. Continuing to limit the freedom of players to work and move isn't right.