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The Price Is Wrong, Bitch.

by muaddib at 01:48 PM on February 10, 2002

Well, now that the Pro Bowl's been played, football season is officially over. This depresses me, because, quite frankly, I really don't care enough about any other sport to follow it closely. What follows will likely cause howls of derision from some, but, hey, it's my post so they're my opinions.

The sport of football has managed to cobble together a pretty decent system that keeps money from ruining the fun of the game. I don't much like salary caps, but for football it seems to have worked pretty well. This season was proof of that: There was simply no predicting what would happen from one week to the next. I mean, hey, the Bengals beat the Patriots in the season opener, but the Patriots beat the Rams in the Super Bowl. Pretty solid evidence the salary cap works to distribute good players throughout the league.

Meanwhile, football has a playoff system that makes sense from a competitive perspective: Each team plays 16 games; the top teams from each division go to the playoffs and then play one game against each opponent until one team from each conference plays for the championship. None of this computerized ranking system insanity, no 7 game series, just one game: Winner takes all, loser's season is over.

It makes a certain amount of sense that baseball has series. It's a statistical sport - unlike football, the teams can't play all their best players in one game; pitchers start in rotation. But we all know that the decision to move from five game championship series to seven games had nothing to do with competition. Five games was enough, but seven means more TV money.

To the extent I have ever cared enough about the fisticuffs on skates called hockey, I would say the same logic applies. Because of the nature of the game, it makes sense to require a team to win more than once game to advance. But they squeeze it for all they can, to the detriment of the sport.

Professional basketball is the worst offender. I swear it seems like the season never ends. They spend, what? four months in the playoffs, take a couple of weeks off, and bang! The regular season starts again. I know, I know, it's not really like that, but it sure seems like it.

College basketball used to be the purest mass spectator sport there was. The playoff system has minor faults, but is nevertheless clean and direct - like pro football's. But the sport has gone to hell and with it my interest in it. I, who was raised on college basketball (you take it with mother's milk in Kentucky), really couldn't care less any more. I manage to muster up a modicum of interest in the NCAA championship, but that's about it.

It never much bothered me that the college system was a de facto minor league system for the pros. There are legitimate points to be made on that score, but the system developed that way and seemed to work. Then the Powers That Be decided to "fix" the system. Recruiting became not so much a way to attract talent as a good way to lose your school's eligibility for TV time and playoff berths. Much like campaign finance "reform" proposals, the "fixes" have served only to make the system worse, justifying still more fixes.

I've always felt that college athletes should be provided a stipend. They don't have time to work during the season - or much of the off-season - and many are poor or simply from the strapped middle class. But we tell them they must gut it out and they'll lose their eligibility to play (and, thus, their ability to attact professional recruitment) if they let some booster buy them a plane ticket home for Uncle Cletus' funeral. It's ridiculous.

And don't get me started on the "sport" of NASCAR. That's not a sport, and drivers are not athletes. Sure, they sweat and work hard physically, but so do longshoremen, coal miners, and garbagemen. And last I checked, trash can tossing was not on the Summer Olympics schedule.

I've never really understood the attraction of sitting on bleachers watching cars go 'round in circles for four hours. The infield of the Indy 500 I get - that's an excuse to join in one of the biggest parties in the world, one that just happens to be in the middle of a bunch of cars going 'round in circles for four hours. But actually caring enough about this activity to follow it, attend the events and/or watch it on TV every week, and put drivers' numbers of one's personal vehicle? Inexplicable! I used to think people went to see crashes, but the proliferation of those number stickers on people's cars over the last few years seems to suggests otherwise. I'll never understand it.

Which, I suppose, leads to the point. All of this stuff - except the ruination of college basketball - is the way it is because the fans don't mind. I suspect some changes will be coming for college football after this year's BCS debacle, but for the others it will only get worse. The fans don't mind the extra couple of games at the end of the season, which I can certainly understand (I certainly wouldn't complain if the NFL went to a 21-week season, instead of the current 17 weeks) even if they know, somewhere in the backs of their minds, that the only reason for it is to take a little more of their money. So it's okay, I guess. But I don't have to like it.

And you don't have to like that I quoted Adam Sandler in the title, but, hey, it fit.

comments (4)

I watched a bit of the Pro Bowl Today, and I'm watching the NBA allstar game now. Both are mighty yawns. Generally speaking, the only games worth watching of any sport come in the last couple weeks of the season. Something about the end of looming in the not to distant future makes all those games more exciting, as much as the impending crowning of a champion.

Its interesting that you only follow football, and wouldn't mind an extra couple weeks it, but think every other season is too long. I guess it just comes down to what people are willing to watch, and if televised bowling, golf and Nascar is any indication, there are people out there who'll watch anything.

by mg at February 10, 2002 7:40 PM

wtf is wrong with Nascar?

by kd at February 10, 2002 10:29 PM

I couldn't agree with you more, Muad'Dib, except that I think a 21 week football season would probably be too much; not for fans, but for the players. And I find a certain amount of pleasure in the first few weeks as you watch the teams define their personalities and try to guess which ones are going to make it. I'd love to see NCAA players get a stipend. they're doing more work for the universities than Resident Assistants are, that's for sure.

by space at February 11, 2002 12:07 PM

some people go to dinner theaters for fun. others go to concerts and party all night afterward. lots of people attend sporting events. some just walk through the woods. everybody has their simple pleasures, i suppose. i like calling random people late at night to tell them i live down the street and i see somebody on their roof.

by Bobby at February 11, 2002 1:42 PM

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