(I originally wrote this post over two weeks ago. But for whatever reason I sat on it, and then sat on it some more. It may be a little dated — the NCAA Championship game was the worst ever — but Arsenal’s continuing incompetence which gave United the title without even playing brought this back to life. Enjoy.)
Joe Posnaski penned a great piece about March Madness
earlier today two weeks ago. To him, the tournament bucks the trend of basketball’s dynastic nature. He writes:
Basketball is probably the most predictable of all our team sports. Well, it only makes sense. Everything is on a smaller scale in basketball. The court is smaller. There are fewer players on each team. There are fewer players on each roster.
There are fewer angles, fewer moves, fewer countermoves. One great basketball player can make a larger impact, I suspect, than one great player on any other team sport.
If you need proof of basketball’s predictability — look at the NBA…
Here are three NBA facts that might blow your mind:
1. Of the last 59 NBA Finals, 38 of them featured either the Celtics or the Lakers, often both.
2. Since 1984, only seven different teams have won an NBA title. Seven! And only one of them — the Miami Heat — won only one title.
Let’s put this in a little bit of perspective:
Number of teams that have won their championship since 1984:
World Series: 18
Super Bowl: 14
Stanley Cup: 13
NBA Finals: 7
We often hear how predictable footy can be (which is one big reason MLS uses the playoff system, and is subsequently ridiculed). To put this in more perspective, here is the number of teams in the big four leagues that have won a championship since 1984:
Unless something wild happens in Italy or Germany, those numbers aren’t on course to change this season.
In England, only Blackburn and Leeds United have won one title (and Leeds won it before the Premier League so that doesn’t count, right?) In Spain and Italy there have been three solitary winners: Deportivo La Coruna, Atlético Madrid, and Atletic Bilbao; and Lazio, Sampdoria, and Hellas Verona.
Numerically, Germany is probably the worst culprit with Wolsburg being the only team to win just one title. Proportionally, Spain is probably the worst considering they’ve had three clubs win the title once yet have just 6 unique winners.
Okay, so perhaps this is apples and oranges as there are no playoffs in footy. Nor are there revenue sharing, draft picks, or any other form of sporting socialism that drive the franchise-model here. So, let’s also account for (the major) Domestic Cup winners since 1984 in each nation for good measure:
Add a +1 to England and possibly in Germany and Italy (right? I don’t know who are in the cup finals there) and it’s a bit more on par with what we see here stateside.
So, what’s the point of all this? Well, we
travel traveled to Old Trafford on last Saturday and United have another title basically locked up. But rather than gallop to the title like they’ve done in the past and like we’re seeing with Barcelona, this season resembles more of a slow, laborious stutter akin to a zombie. A hallmark of Romero films wasn’t the zombies killing the protagonists, it was what the protagonists did to themselves to be devoured by the zombies.
And it’s that fact is most maddening to me. Shouldn’t we want more out of this game? Shouldn’t we demand bread and circus considering the exorbitant costs following the game now requires? If sports are now deemed entertainment, well, dammit, I’d like to be entertained. What made our European run last year so darn exciting, beyond that the fact we beat Juve and played in a Cup final, is that it was so unpredictable. Who in their right mind thought we could do what we do?
No one, and that naivety per se is what made it so special.
Overall, if it wasn’t for the unpredictability (to a point) of the Champions and Europa League, would soccer exist as it does now? Or would we have tuned it out like we now do with the ever-predictable various forms of auto racing? I’m fully aware a tournament/playoffs–which the Champions League basically is–doesn’t reward the “best” team like a reason season does; so I’m not suggesting that the EPL, or La Liga, or any other non-MLS footy league adopt that wholesale.
But what’s the answers? Financial fair play? Salary caps?
I don’t know.
I’m going to watching playoff hockey, even though I’m fully aware 6 months of regular season play (and high ticket costs) can be undone in just 4 games. But dammit, I’m entertained.