With the rollout of team nicknames on Wednesday, the XFL teased fans about what they’ll see when the rebooted football league kicks off next spring. It’ll be another in an increasingly long line of pro upstarts that are formed on the premise that gridiron fans have an insatiable desire for the game.
And that got me wondering … are there any other sports that fans yearn to see year round? You don’t ever hear much about that – at least I don’t.
Soccer is the exception because, frankly, it already is year round. If you want to find a competitive league in any given month, you can.
Today, though – just for fun – I’m gonna look at a handful of sports and wonder out loud (and in print) how they might fare if they played in their offseasons and were bankrolled properly.
Please be sure to keep a grain of salt handy as you read,
Would there be an interest in a pro baseball league that starts, say, in November and ends in March? I realize there are already winter leagues, but they’re short, mostly of the instructional/ rehab variety, and designed to give players a nudge up the Major League Baseball farm system ladder.
What I’m talking about is a kinda/sorta “competitor” to the bigs, or at least one that would aspire to independent Triple-A status.
Teams would have to play in warm weather climates or in cities with a dome, so automatically you could forget major markets such as New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
That would be a huge negative if this league was looking for a major TV contract.
With the “real” baseball season already at 162 games and a World Series that bleeds into late October, another league might be a tough sell. Considering I have a hard enough time watching the MLB these days anyway, I’m guessing the novelty would wear off quite quickly for me.
Still, if I ran it, two of my major rule innovations would be a two and a half hour time limit on regular season games and a home run derby (penalty kick-style) to break ties.
This sport is already almost year round thanks to the WNBA, which I enjoy watching very much. Still, a men’s league that started up right after the NBA crowned its champion would interest me, too.
I love watching the NBA summer league, and if a new circuit was formed that started in the hotter months and played until the fall, I’d definitely support it. Roundball is something I never, ever tire of, and if you put some good players out on a court, I’ll pay to watch them.
And there are plenty of great players across the globe that would easily fill roster spots. When you realize there are only 450 players in the NBA in a given season, that means there’s a whole lot of talent looking for work.
I think with the right marketing and media partners, a June through October basketball league would have a puncher’s chance of making it.
Rule changes would include teams having the option to take the ball instead of shooting free throws following a foul, and making traveling an enforceable call.
Then again if you wanted to go way outside the box, how about a co-ed pro league? Lineups featuring three men and two women and three women and two men would alternate each quarter, and the shifts would be determined randomly before games.
Now that’d be a hoot. All you need are arenas, water filtration/advanced refrigeration systems and Zambonis, and you’re good to go.
Oh, and players – quality players would help. (Raiding the Kontinental Hockey League would be a good start to that end).
I fell in love with hockey back in the 1970s and the affair is still going strong. Therefore, if I lived in a town with a team that skated on Saturday nights in June, I’d gladly give it my money (even though it would be weird to wear shorts to a hockey game).
Rule-wise, I really can’t think of much I’d change. To me it’s one of those “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kinda things. But … if I could do one thing, it would be to increase the goal size from 6×4 feet to 7×5 feet. Goalies have gotten bigger over the years, so maybe the nets should reflect that growth spurt.
The question, of course, is whether enough people would pay to see summer hockey to make it worthwhile.
Last year the NHL averaged 17,377 fans per game and drew over 22 million for the season. Open up the checkbooks to get a few name players, put franchises in hockey hotbeds, and who knows?
I can’t think of a single entrepreneur chomping at the bit to form such a league, but I’ll lend my encouragement if they do.
Yet while we might never see major attempts at second seasons for baseball, basketball or hockey, you can always count on football to give it a try. Aside from the XFL, the Freedom Football League and Pacific Pro Football are scheduled to debut next summer.
And since I keep hearing that everyone wants football 12 months out of the year, it’d be nice if one of these leagues actually proved it to be true.