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Which Sport Has The Most Meaningful Regular Season?

Brad Frank@brfrank9Correspondent IJuly 23, 2009

I consider myself a pretty big sports fan.

I absolutely love certain sports, but I don't really care as much for others.

I've determined that the intensity with which I follow a sport during its entire season largely depends on the impact each regular season game carries in terms of how postseason berths are awarded.

I have my preferences when choosing to watch regular season games, to say the least.

So I'm wondering what you prefer.

Can you watch a regular season game even if it's not important? Or do you live for each regular season game because you believe every game is crucial for teams playing?

In 1978, Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent hit a three-run go-ahead home run in a one-game tiebreaker against the Red Sox.

Essentially, his home run made the Red Sox' regular season meaningless, as this one game decided the postseason fate of the Red Sox that year, without regard for anything they did in the regular season.

Should all regular season games carry the type of importance that 1978 one-game tiebreaker held?

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Or can some if not many of them be almost routine, having little impact on the postseason?

So I ask:

With its current setup, which of the following leagues has the most meaningful regular season?

National Football League (NFL)

NFL teams play 16 games over a span of 17 weeks. So the NFL offers quality over quantity when compared to other leagues, which play dozens more games in their regular seasons.

Twelve of the league's 32 teams, eight division winners and four wild cards, qualify for the playoffs, six teams from each conference. The two teams with the best record aside from the division winners earn the wild card berth. The two teams from each conference with the best records receive a first-round bye. The playoffs are a single-elimnation tournament.

Teams that win nine or 10 games in the regular season often secure a playoff berth. So teams are allowed a few slip-ups during the course of the season. For the most part, 16 games is enough to determine which teams are worthy of playoff berths.


National Hockey League (NHL)

The NHL employs an 82-game regular season followed by its playoffs that feature best-of-seven series between the 16 participants. The 82-game season not only tests the durability of each player, but also a team's consistency.

In the NHL, a 30-team league, points are awarded after each regular season game. Two points are awarded for a win, one point for losing in overtime or a shootout, and zero points for a loss in regulation.

At the end of the season, the team in each division with the most points is declared the division winner and receives a playoff berth. Then, the five teams with the most points aside from the division winners also receive playoff berths.

In the playoff series, the team with the higher seed is awarded home-ice advantage. So in the NHL, compiling the most points possible is crucial to gain every advantage possible in the postseason.


National Basketball Association (NBA)

Like the NHL, the NBA employs an 82-game regular season, which is followed by the playoffs that feature best-of-seven series between 16 of the league's 30 teams. The NBA regular season is long enough to ensure that teams which play well most consistently emerge as a higher seed in the playoffs.

Eight teams from each conference qualify for the postseason. The teams are seeded based on the number of wins they have, even though the three division winners earn the top three seeds. In each round, the team with the better record owns home-court advantage, regardless of its seed.


Major League Baseball (MLB)

MLB teams play a 162-game regular season over a span of six months. MLB's regular season is a marathon.

The best teams are truly rewarded for their play during the regular season, as the MLB postseason is as exclusive as any, unlike the NBA and the NHL, in which nearly half of the league's teams qualify for the postseason.

Eight teams qualify for the postseason, four in each league, including three division winners and one wild card. In the playoffs, the wild card plays the team with the best record outside of its division.


Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) College Football

The collection of teams which compete in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) participate collectively in what is called the Football Bowl Subdivision, which is formerly known as Division I-A.

College football teams do not participate in a tournament at the end of the regular season. Instead, teams compete in exhibition games called "bowls" to win shares of revenue for their own conference.

College football teams typically play 12 games in the regular season. At the end of the regular season, conference champions from BCS conferences automatically qualify for a BCS Bowl. Teams outside of BCS conferences are known as "mid-majors" and rarely compete in a BCS Bowl.

The BCS committee uses a formula to rank teams in order to determine which teams are most deserving of BCS Bowl bids. The formula is quite controversial, as it combines human opinion and computer output. Overall, however, the formula separates the great teams from the good teams and the good teams from the bad teams.

In order to maintain any chance of playing in the national championship, the formula nearly requires teams to finish their regular seasons unbeaten. With one loss, a team usually doesn't regain that chance until every FBS team incurs a loss.


Men's and Women's College Basketball

Men's and women's college basketball teams play in more than 30 regular season games before they participate in conference tournaments.

Conference tournament winners are awarded an automatic bid to the single-elimation tournament which determines the national champion. Teams that don't win their conference tournament can qualify for the tournament with an at-large bid, which is awarded to teams by a selection committee that determines the remaining participants in the postseason tournament.

The college basketball regular season forces teams to compile a resume in the hope that it is pleasing to the committee. Teams are seeded one through 16 in the tournament based on the strength of their resumes at regular season's end.


So, with an idea of how each postseason shapes as a result of the regular season, based on your experience of watching sports, which sport has the most meaningful regular season?

In other words, how important is the outcome of each and every game a team plays during the course of its regular season schedule?

My answer is college football. What's yours?

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