Column: Will a league put scarcity to the test?

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks after a memorial mass for New York Mets Hall of Famer Rusty Staub at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Wednesday, April 25, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

And give some players more rest (haha). Rhymes are dumb, but player health is not. Professional sports are long season full of incredible specimens exerting peak physicality repetitively while traveling around the country, getting their internal clocks messed up, sleeping and eating inconsistently, and just generally living out quite the hectic work schedule compared to your typical nine to five.

Stakeholders have had enough. Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs recently said that Major League Baseball should cut back from its current 162 game iteration. NBA players, coaches and media members have been speaking out about reducing their NBA slate for a couple of years now. A couple of years ago there was quite a fervor about chopping some of the NFL schedule, or at least the preseason games, and while it has dialed down, the root cause of the idea still persists.

The leagues do not want fatigued and injured players, rather they know what is best is players being able to perform their best and that occurs when they are rested and raring to go. However, what they value more is money. Professional sports generate a lot of it if you haven’t heard. The more games, the more revenue opportunities. It’s basic math, right? ESPN and Turner are paying for an 82-game season, that’s what they’ve sold their advertisers, how could they cut back.

They could if they have faith in their product. The demand is high for pro sports, in fact for the NBA, according to television ratings it’s never been higher. When supply is cut back, or is just generally less, if the product is valuable enough, people who covet it will pay the premiums due to increased demand. Of course, concessions from the players side would, and should, occur as well.

People will still want to watch games. ESPN and Turner will stay want and get those viewers. Advertisers will still want to be seen by those viewers. With less games, and what could likely be a higher quality of game, passionate fans will have greater reason to tune in. Advertisers, with less games available, will have to compete for space and pay more as well. The NFL, which is America’s most popular sport for a large myriad of reasons, certainly benefits from their 16-game schedule with every game save one or two on national networks every weekend.

Seemingly, at least. I’m not an economist nor am I an insider on media and sponsorship negotiations. There is definitely rationale, rationale that is currently prevailing, the curtailing games is a money losing endeavor. But players are getting tired, literally and figuratively. If they keep this PR Push going, if they collectively bargain for it, if they get studies with findings on their side, change could happen. Every Bill Simmons snipe on his podcast or Tom Haberstroh piece on player health nudges the basketball world’s sentiment in favor of reduction. Rizzo is probably the first MLB guy I have heard, and I am not in tune with NHL to know their thoughts on the matter.

I am confident however this an issue that is not dying but gaining steam instead. The question is which league will acquiesce, by how much, and when. If they do so, is a matter simply of player wellbeing and appeasement or is their actual faith that it would keep cash flows acceptable to current levels. No matter the cause, whoever is the pioneer will be a case study and potential trend setter who is watched incredibly closely for viability. All it takes is one league to try and I am fascinated to see how it goes. Healthy leagues and healthy players is something all fans should want.


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.