Thursday, May 20, 2010

Email: A Proper Champion

Periodically, I want to make sure I answer an email that might vocalize many people's thoughts on a given topic.

On Tuesday's show, we were discussing the way our sports crown their champions every year. The discussion started with Dan talking about how nice it is that the NBA generally has form hold in high seeds beating lower seeds. More than in other sports, it seems like the NBA Finals generally has heavyweights squaring off, rather than odd Cinderella stories like the NHL, MLB, and even occasionally the NFL.

I agree with his premise, but as a fan of many sports through-out the world, I have grown to desire a landscape where the history books show worthy champions every year. I just don't like a system where chance is a greater indicator than skill for determining who gets the trophy at the end of the year.

Is this a horrible view? John think so:

Hi Bob,

Love you and the show, but I gotta take exception to a topic from the past few days.

Most recently, your talk about "quality" in the playoffs is just all wrong. Do you really want to see only the Red Sox or the Yankees in the World Series every year? I don't. The regular season is important, but the playoffs is when it's on the line and good teams shine. That's what the Marlins did, they put it together when they had to and played great baseball. Why diminish that effort, even if they didn't sustain it for years? The Yankees are "quality" because they can buy anyone they want, but I don't think that makes them any more deserving than any other team. They get enough kudos and rings, just like the Red Wings. Don't diminish the 7th and 8th seed teams just because they have risen above the challenges placed before them.

Love you,

One of the many John's in Plano

Let me be clear: I don't want to see the Red Sox and the Yankees winning the title every year...unless they are the best team.

My desire is that we provide a top-level challenge to our team's in each sport every year. And we have that - it is called the regular season. In baseball, we have a 162 game regular season. It takes 6 months and requires every imaginable aspect of a baseball organization to win a title. Then, the playoffs start, and if you are a wildcard team taking on a 1-seed, all you need to do is win 3 games out of 5 to take down their 6 months of hard work. Winning 3 out of 5 games is not a test of skill. It is a test of chance compared to the 6 month test that was just completed.

I understand that money is the root of all evil, and the playoffs make huge amounts of money. But it is not the most righteous way to find a champion. I suppose that is what makes us really admire the 1990's Chicago Bulls - they could win the regular season and then also win the playoffs. They could pass any test.

But, I just don't like how in the United States, we have cheapened the entire concept of the regular season to a point where none of us are really sure why we have 82 basketball or hockey games before April.

Despite the fact that many of you will recoil, I would request you consider how most countries in the world determine their soccer champion. Very simple. There are 20 teams in the league. So, the season consists of everyone playing the other 19 teams both home and away - (38 total games). At the end of the 38 matches, we add up the point totals and there is your champion with the most points. It is a totally and completely fair schedule. It is a regular season where every single game means something.

And where are the playoffs to determine the champion of the league? There are none.

And you know something? Never, in the history of the English Premiership, has there ever been a less-than-great champion. It is impossible. It is impossible to limp through the season, make the playoffs, and "get hot". The 2007 NY Giants would not have a chance. The 2010 Boston Celtics, neither. Nor, the 2003 Florida Marlins.

You might be wondering why we would get rid of the intense, amazing, and dramatic action that constitutes our playoffs? You wouldn't be getting rid of them. You would be moving intensity to the regular season. Yes, we would once again have meaningful seasons.

So, meaningful seasons? Check
No more games when they charge you silly amounts of money and then go through the motions? Check
A proper champion? Check

Will it ever happen? Of course not.

Nor will the awesomeness of relegation.

But, a boy can dream.


bartonomus said...

Don't tease me with the thought of relegation. I believe hockey could use it and have huge success.

P1 Steven said...

I disagree about getting "lucky" in the baseball playoffs. Afterall it is a 5 & 7 game series. Luck is much more of a possibility in football. One game decides it all & a couple lucky bounces happen and you are a champ.

Jon M said...

I would love to see a promotion relegation system in baseball. It would add so much interest to failing teams over the last month of the season. Also it would be huge for minor league towns.

I've also thought baseball could benefit from a shorter schedule. Speaking personally, there is not much incentive to commit to going to a specific game. If there will be 81 other home games, I'll just wait for the next one. Very little incentive when its 110 degrees out and the Pirates are in town.

Josh said...

It seems to me that if you eliminate the playoffs, a team could get so far ahead in the regular season standings (I'm thinking about the '07 Patriots or '01 Mariners) that we would be left with a plethora of meaningless games with the "champion" being all but decided a month or two before the end of the season. Meh. Back to the drawing board Sturm.

Doctorjorts said...

You make a good point, as usual, Bob, and it's actually the same reasoning the BCS uses to argue for its own relevance. There's only so much "importance" that can be spread around in a season, whether you want to spread it out over an entire regular season or lump it all together at the end.

The problem is when one great team beats another it ought to count for more than just a single tally in the standings. If team A finishes 36-2, with their only losses coming against team B who finished 35-3, I see something very wrong with saying team A is better. That's why we like playoffs. If you aren't able to beat a team you shouldn't be able to call yourself "better." Were the 06-07 Mavericks the best team in the NBA? Anyone that wants that crown had better be able to take care of the Golden State Warriors.

Sturminator said...

@ Steven- Winning 3 of 5 isn't lucky, but it is way easier to do than running the 162 gauntlet.

@ Josh - I can assure you that your scenario doesn't happen. Also relegation keeps things interesting.

Relegation is what we need. I better get an essay ready on that, too. If you have ever experienced relegation battles, you know this system is the superior one.

Rico said...

Nice thought.

Actually, I love the system of our Bundesliga (German soccer). No thinking about a fair schedule and you always have a champion who really deserves it.
That being said, I also like the idea of divisions, playing a rival more often, having playoffs. And we do have that kind of competitions in the domestic cups like the FA-Cup oder in the european competitions like the Champions League. Tomorrow Munich will play Inter and both sucked last November. Both needed some luck to make it to the knock out phase. And now one of them will win it all. Does that make the winner of the Champions League a less greater team? I don't think so.
You can even take it one step further. The World Cup is a 2-year long tournament. And it is determined by playoffs at the end. And no one would argue that as a soccer player you can't win more than the World Cup. Look at the 94 World Cup, it was even decided by penalty kicks. Does that make Brazil less of champion?

There are good arguments for both systems. Actually I think in Baseball you have a meaningful regular season since there are only 8 Playoff teams. So same is true for the NFL which gets its intense regular season through the small amount of games.

Rene said...

the alternate view that would also never happen, would be for a league to go to a double or triple elimination playoff format right off the bat.

The reason it would never happen of course, is because the first teams out would lose a sht-ton of money compared to the teams that go the distance.

regardless, that would produce for you the truest champion.

It would work like this:
-random seeding
-everyone plays one game before anyone plays another game (similar to the hand-for-hand stage at the end of a poker tournament)
-double elimination
-last team standing is the champ.

In a 32 team league triple elimination tourney, this would mean that the eventual champ would have to win a minimum of 18 out of 20 games to become the eventual champion. Every time. That sounds pretty legit for football, with the added bonus that the lions done playing in the first month. :)

This would also progressively make the games more competitive as the season progresses, and keeps the top end teams playing longer.

If you want longer seasons for sports like basketball and hockey then just go to quadruple or quintuple elimination.

again, this'll never happen due to money - but if you want the most legit champ possible...

Clay said...

Baseball would take on a entirely new source of passion if they had relegation. Can you imagine a city/owner building a billion-dollar stadium and the team being sent to Triple-A? That would be amazing drama!

As for the EPL...I'm pretty tired of Chelski winning everything....

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