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-   -   Why isn't the league table featured prominently in American sports (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=868434)

griffin1977 01-05-2019 04:51 PM

Why isn't the league table featured prominently in American sports
 
So I spend quite a while watching American sports with the in-laws over the holidays (mainly NFL, but also some basketball and hockey). As well as the usual observations as a British person watching American sports (advert breaks, too many stoppages, etc) I noticed something else.

The positions of the different teams in the league (or conference or whatever they call it in different sports) is rarely mentioned, I do think I saw see the actual league table itself at all. Even in the NFL matches (which were the last ones before the playoffs) I'd only hear an occasional reference in the final game such as "Team X needs a win to advance to the play offs", not "Team X are top of the conference with N wins, team Y are thirds with M wins".

Why is this? In European football (soccer) leagues the table is mentioned a lot (even early in the season when its effective meaningless). The lack of draws (and AFAIK bonus points as in Rugby?) makes the league tables a little less interesting, as you have less possible combinations. But still seems strange to me.

Covfefe 01-05-2019 05:00 PM

Probably comes up less often because the major American sports do not have a system of promotion and relegation.

Jackknifed Juggernaut 01-05-2019 05:03 PM

I think regular followers of American sports, such as myself, pretty much know the standings at all times during the season. That said, for most fans what is important is playoff position. Standings/table position is of utmost importance for most soccer leagues, because that IS the championship. In US sports, where distance makes completely balanced schedules impossible, the championship is won by winning the playoffs. Once they start, no one really cares about who had the best record during the regular season.

kenobi 65 01-05-2019 05:24 PM

As noted above: there's no promotion / relegation in U.S. pro sports, and all of the major professional team sports in the U.S. have both (a) a system of playoffs to determine a season's champion, and (b) are organized into subgroups of conferences and divisions, which are what determine which teams make the playoffs.

For instance, in the NFL, a team is either in the American Football Conference (AFC), or the National football Conference (NFC). Twelve teams make the playoffs each year -- six from each conference.

Within a conference, there are then four divisions (North, South, East, and West). The team with the best record in its division at the end of the regular season makes the playoffs (so, that's four from each conference). Then, there are two "wild card" teams in each conference, which also get into the playoffs -- the wild card teams are the two teams in a conference with the best record, who did *not* win their division.

Having the best record in your conference means (i.e., the "#1 seed") that you'll be playing at home through the playoffs, and it also means that you'll get a "bye" (a week off) during the first week of the playoffs. (The #2 seed also gets that bye.)

Then, the two conference champions (as determined by three rounds of playoff games) meet in the Super Bowl, which is played at a neutral site. The winner of the Super Bowl is the league's champion for that season.

A team's overall record / standing in the league for the season doesn't factor into any of that. Having "the best record in the league" for a season is a minor point of bragging rights, but there's no award or trophy associated with that, and there have been a whole lot of teams who went into the playoffs having had the best regular-season record, only to fall short of winning the championship.

You'll very frequently hear mention of a team's position within their division, as that's a relevant point (winning your division ensures a playoff spot). When you look at the league's standings online, it's always divided up by conference and division.

About the only thing that overall league standing in the NFL acts to determine is the order in which teams will draft new players (coming out of college) before the next season, as well as the order in which teams are allowed to claim players off of waivers when they've been released by other teams. In both of those cases, the "reverse order" is used (i.e., the team with the worst record gets the #1 draft choice).

griffin1977 01-05-2019 06:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kenobi 65 (Post 21413989)
As noted above: there's no promotion / relegation in U.S. pro sports, and all of the major professional team sports in the U.S. have both (a) a system of playoffs to determine a season's champion, and (b) are organized into subgroups of conferences and divisions, which are what determine which teams make the playoffs.

For instance, in the NFL, a team is either in the American Football Conference (AFC), or the National football Conference (NFC). Twelve teams make the playoffs each year -- six from each conference.

Within a conference, there are then four divisions (North, South, East, and West). The team with the best record in its division at the end of the regular season makes the playoffs (so, that's four from each conference). Then, there are two "wild card" teams in each conference, which also get into the playoffs -- the wild card teams are the two teams in a conference with the best record, who did *not* win their division.

Having the best record in your conference means (i.e., the "#1 seed") that you'll be playing at home through the playoffs, and it also means that you'll get a "bye" (a week off) during the first week of the playoffs. (The #2 seed also gets that bye.)

Then, the two conference champions (as determined by three rounds of playoff games) meet in the Super Bowl, which is played at a neutral site. The winner of the Super Bowl is the league's champion for that season.

A team's overall record / standing in the league for the season doesn't factor into any of that. Having "the best record in the league" for a season is a minor point of bragging rights, but there's no award or trophy associated with that, and there have been a whole lot of teams who went into the playoffs having had the best regular-season record, only to fall short of winning the championship.

This is not that different Champions League or World Cup. Where you have a group stage followed by knock out rounds. Unlike domestic club football completions where you typically have a single league.

Quote:

Originally Posted by kenobi 65 (Post 21413989)

you'll very frequently hear mention of a team's position within their division, as that's a relevant point (winning your division ensures a playoff spot). When you look at the league's standings online, it's always divided up by conference and division.

About the only thing that overall league standing in the NFL acts to determine is the order in which teams will draft new players (coming out of college) before the next season, as well as the order in which teams are allowed to claim players off of waivers when they've been released by other teams. In both of those cases, the "reverse order" is used (i.e., the team with the worst record gets the #1 draft choice).

That is what I mean.by position within the league. Position within the division. In the champions league or similar football competition you will hear a lot of discussion of the different teams position of within the group. And the various possible outcomes (especially at the end of the group stage). I've never heard that for the divisions in NFL (I couldnt tell how many teams in each division, and how many get to the playoffs)

Jackknifed Juggernaut 01-05-2019 06:52 PM

I’ll also add that MLS works the same way, as opposed to most (all?) other soccer leagues around the world. Again, I think travel distance plays a big part of why they have to do it this way.

Acsenray 01-05-2019 07:09 PM

In the U.S., we use the term "standings" rather than "league table." The standings are published each day, and they are important in that they determine which teams will qualify for the playoffs.

However, there are perhaps three developments during my lifetime that have made actual discussion of the daily standings less common for American sports these days.

One is the expansion of playoffs. When I was growing up, I followed baseball. There were two leagues—National and American—and each league was divided into eastern and western divisions. Divisions in the National league had six teams each and in the American league seven teams each. The important thing was that only the first place team in each division qualified for the playoffs.

Now, the phenomenon of wild card playoff entries has become ubiquitous, so you don't have to be first in your division to make the playoffs. So it's much less important to be the first place team.

Second and third, is the creation of more divisions with fewer teams. The American League had two divisions with seven teams each in my youth. Now, National Football League's eight divisions have only four teams each. So, placement within a division is not really all that variable. Add that to the existence of wild cards, and there's not much to say about it. And the NFL regular season will end with eight first-place teams. It's not really all that much of an accomplishment to be first any more.

The result is that the standings have become much less important than they used to be. So, for the most part, discussion centers on the overall "wild card" table. You no longer get any prize for first place, so there's not much to say about it.

griffin1977 01-05-2019 07:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jackknifed Juggernaut (Post 21414110)
I’ll also add that MLS works the same way, as opposed to most (all?) other soccer leagues around the world. Again, I think travel distance plays a big part of why they have to do it this way.

I know Mexico has a US style football competition (a single competition with a group stage and playoffs, not a separate league and cup)

IMO I think the MLS should adopt a European style league with relegation and promotion. I think it would help spread the game here if some random small town could get promotion to the big leagues (at the expense of a big team that has bad season). Though thats a different thread (I started one on it a while back)

kenobi 65 01-05-2019 11:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by griffin1977 (Post 21414101)
That is what I mean.by position within the league. Position within the division. In the champions league or similar football competition you will hear a lot of discussion of the different teams position of within the group. And the various possible outcomes (especially at the end of the group stage). I've never heard that for the divisions in NFL (I couldnt tell how many teams in each division, and how many get to the playoffs)

Then, either, you've been particularly unlucky, or you haven't been sure of what you've been listening for.

In any given NFL TV broadcast, *particularly* when you get into the second half of the season, the teams' positions in the standings will almost always get mentioned a few times, and it'll usually be shown with an on-screen graphic at least once or twice (especially if the game is between two teams in the same division).

Particularly in the last month of the season, if one or both teams are in contention for a playoff spot, that, too, gets mentioned. The fact that there are two avenues into the playoffs for an NFL team (win your division, or win a wild-card spot) makes it a little more complicated, but the TV networks nearly always will dedicate a few moments of airtime to talk about the standings, and how the teams stand regarding their playoff hopes.

I grew up in Green Bay, I have Packers season tickets, and I have a share of stock in the Packers. I watch a lot of NFL football, and I've done so for decades. Please trust me when I say that this does, in fact, get covered, regularly, in game broadcasts.

kenobi 65 01-05-2019 11:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21414127)
You no longer get any prize for first place, so there's not much to say about it.

Not entirely true, since winning your division in the NFL ensures that you will, at a minimum, get to host the first playoff game that you play in. A wild card team makes the playoffs, but they are on the road for as long as they're in.

Acsenray 01-06-2019 06:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by griffin1977 (Post 21414101)


That is what I mean.by position within the league. Position within the division.

In US sports, leagues and divisions are not the same thing as leagues and divisions in a European sports.

A "division" in many European leagues is a group selected by competition level. Leagues encompass all levels of play and their Divisions are ranked from high to low and clubs an move in and out of the division based on their performance

I'm the U.S., however, a league like the MLB, NFL, NBA, or NHL is the equivalent of the European division. It represents the top level of play in the professional sport. And ranking within the league doesn't result in relegation or promotion.

Divisions are groupings within the league to simply create smaller units of competition and create more opportunities for playoff berths. They don't represent level of play.

Acsenray 01-06-2019 06:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kenobi 65 (Post 21414457)
Not entirely true, since winning your division in the NFL ensures that you will, at a minimum, get to host the first playoff game that you play in. A wild card team makes the playoffs, but they are on the road for as long as they're in.

That's not a "prize" as I see it. It may be a bit of an advantage for a portion of the playoffs, but once the playoffs end, there's little sense of lasting prestige or accomplishment in having won the division as opposed to entering the playoffs as a wild card.

When there are eight division winners, being first place in the division doesn't mean as much as when there were four.

If you didn't make it to the Super Bowl, a ffirst place finish isn't a huge occasion for celebration any more.

AK84 01-06-2019 06:30 AM

The American system is pretty understandable.
The one thing I always thought they should change is making it possible for teams from the same conferance to play in the final. In NBA and as far as I know, the NFL and MLB, the final game or series is played between the conferance winners. What happens if the two best teams are in the same conferance. Like the Pistons and the Bulls during the Jordan era.

Jackknifed Juggernaut 01-06-2019 06:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AK84 (Post 21414670)
....What happens if the two best teams are in the same conferance. Like the Pistons and the Bulls during the Jordan era.

There isn’t really a way to prove that the 2 best teams are in the same division. You can’t go by record, since the schedules are not balanced; i.e. your record may be bloated to due to particularly weak teams in your division or conference that you play more frequently than those from other divisions or conference.

The one thing that bothers me about the NBA and NHL is that geographic rivals can never meet in the Finals, since there are Eastern and Western conferences. Each MLB league and NFL conference have divisions that span the country. So you can get a New York Mets vs. New York Yankees derby (although no one here calls it that) in the World Series.

griffin1977 01-06-2019 07:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21414659)
In US sports, leagues and divisions are not the same thing as leagues and divisions in a European sports.

A "division" in many European leagues is a group selected by competition level. Leagues encompass all levels of play and their Divisions are ranked from high to low and clubs an move in and out of the division based on their performance

I'm the U.S., however, a league like the MLB, NFL, NBA, or NHL is the equivalent of the European division. It represents the top level of play in the professional sport. And ranking within the league doesn't result in relegation or promotion.

Divisions are groupings within the league to simply create smaller units of competition and create more opportunities for playoff berths. They don't represent level of play.

Yeah, the equivalent in European sport would be a group in something like the Champions League. During the group stage you'll hear a lot of discussion of the placings within the group. I've not heard any in the NFL

Telemark 01-06-2019 08:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by griffin1977 (Post 21414695)
During the group stage you'll hear a lot of discussion of the placings within the group. I've not heard any in the NFL

As mentioned above, the playoff picture is the most relevant information and that's what is discussed.

Atamasama 01-06-2019 10:46 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21414662)
That's not a "prize" as I see it. It may be a bit of an advantage for a portion of the playoffs, but once the playoffs end, there's little sense of lasting prestige or accomplishment in having won the division as opposed to entering the playoffs as a wild card.

When there are eight division winners, being first place in the division doesn't mean as much as when there were four.

If you didn't make it to the Super Bowl, a ffirst place finish isn't a huge occasion for celebration any more.

And yet when an NFL team wins their division or their conference they will usually have a banner with the accomplishment permanently hung in the stadium, they will put out merchandise with the accomplishment on it, it will be mentioned frequently in the media, etc. Sure seems like a big deal to me. Not as much as a Super Bowl of course but you make it seem like nobody pays attention or cares, and I think you’re just projecting your own opinion. People care.

ETA: Except maybe New England. They pretty much automatically win their division every year since they’re the only team not hot garbage for the past decade or so.

ElvisL1ves 01-06-2019 11:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Atamasama (Post 21414864)
ETA: Except maybe New England. They pretty much automatically win their division every year since they’re the only team not hot garbage for the past decade or so.

It helps that they don't have to play New England twice a year. ;)

Agreed, the OP isn't clear - American fans do know where their teams are in the standings, and those are on TV and in the paper and online lavishly enough for anyone to find out.

That Don Guy 01-06-2019 11:33 AM

One thing I don't think has been answered definitively: why are European league tables listed with the results as wins, then draws, then losses, but in the USA, they are listed as wins, then losses, then draws (er, ties)?

Some Call Me... Tim 01-06-2019 11:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kenobi 65 (Post 21414457)
Not entirely true, since winning your division in the NFL ensures that you will, at a minimum, get to host the first playoff game that you play in. A wild card team makes the playoffs, but they are on the road for as long as they're in.

Speaking of not entirely true, if both wild card teams in a division win two playoff games in a row - eliminating the first through fourth seeds - then the fifth seeded (wild card) team will host the sixth seeded team and thus play at home.

ElvisL1ves 01-06-2019 11:40 AM

Just a WAG: Team sports, as a broad concept, in Europe evolved from soccer, where ties are common, but in America they derive from baseball, where they don't occur. The "natural evolution" from a listing of wins and losses is wins, losses, and ties, even though a sequence of very good, still good, and not good makes more sense.

kenobi 65 01-06-2019 12:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Some Call Me... Tim (Post 21414930)
Speaking of not entirely true, if both wild card teams in a division win two playoff games in a row - eliminating the first through fourth seeds - then the fifth seeded (wild card) team will host the sixth seeded team and thus play at home.

Fair point, and I plead it being late when I posted that, and forgot that possibility. :D It does mean that both wild card teams would have to win on the road twice, likely at least once against a team with a better record, in order to get to that point. Improbable (since there have been wild card teams which have made it to the Super Bowl), but not impossible.

RealityChuck 01-06-2019 01:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves (Post 21414932)
Just a WAG: Team sports, as a broad concept, in Europe evolved from soccer, where ties are common, but in America they derive from baseball, where they don't occur. The "natural evolution" from a listing of wins and losses is wins, losses, and ties, even though a sequence of very good, still good, and not good makes more sense.

This is basically it: Baseball was the first major team sport in the US and established the order. College football added ties, but they were relatively rare, so no one thought to put it in the middle. By the time hockey came along (the first American sport* where you had a reasonable number of ties), people were used to it.


*Yes, it originated in Canada, but it wasn't noticed in the US until the Bruins and Americans started playing. The Americans played in New York, which meant they had higher visibility. Still, most of the country knew nothing about hockey at that point. But it made sense for the newspapers to go W-L-T since people were so used to seeing W-L in the scores.

Jackmannii 01-06-2019 01:28 PM

I'm mystified what American sports the OP could have been watching without seeing and hearing frequent references to playoff/postseason positioning. NFL broadcasts increasingly as the season goes on feature discussion of how Team X's chances of going to the playoffs will be affected by the current game, whether it could get home-field advantage, potential opponents etc.
Quote:

Originally Posted by griffin 1977
The lack of draws (and AFAIK bonus points as in Rugby?) makes the league tables a little less interesting

Yes, we tend to have few fewer of those scintillating 0-0 or 1-1 draws, and then only in soccer games and the rare NFL contest that ends in an overtime tie.

It must've been especially disconcerting to griffin1977 to experience actual game clocks showing how much time was left, instead of depending on a referee's semi-arbitrary determination of when stoppage time, um, stopped. :)

asterion 01-06-2019 01:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kenobi 65 (Post 21414953)
Fair point, and I plead it being late when I posted that, and forgot that possibility. :D It does mean that both wild card teams would have to win on the road twice, likely at least once against a team with a better record, in order to get to that point. Improbable (since there have been wild card teams which have made it to the Super Bowl), but not impossible.

Teams have made it from the wild card and won it from the sixth seed. Steelers did it in Super Bowl XL. Packers then did it to beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Giants won from the fifth seed in Super Bowl XLII. Those are the last three examples off the top of my head.

Atamasama 01-06-2019 01:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by That Don Guy (Post 21414924)
One thing I don't think has been answered definitively: why are European league tables listed with the results as wins, then draws, then losses, but in the USA, they are listed as wins, then losses, then draws (er, ties)?

In American football, ties are so rare they’re practically an afterthought so are tacked on to the end. And often omitted entirely; you know a 4-2 team had four wins and two losses. Even when comparing records where one team has a tie in their record and the other doesn’t you’ll sometimes see something like “3-5 vs 2-5-1”.

In a sport like soccer/association football, ties are not uncommon at all, so it makes sense to put ties between wins and losses when listing records.

Velocity 01-06-2019 03:36 PM

Wonder if maybe there is a difference in American vs. European sports culture whereby American culture demands decisive outcomes (want one team to win and one to lose) whereas Europeans are more comfortable with draws/ties/stalemates.

kunilou 01-06-2019 05:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Velocity (Post 21415281)
Wonder if maybe there is a difference in American vs. European sports culture whereby American culture demands decisive outcomes (want one team to win and one to lose) whereas Europeans are more comfortable with draws/ties/stalemates.

You may be familiar with the cliche, "a tie is like kissing your sister." (Which, AFAICT, has been attributed to every college football coach ever.)

In 1966, top ranked Notre Dame played #2 ranked Michigan state in both teams' final regular season game. As the game neared conclusion with the teams tied, Notre Dame chose to run the clock out (and end the season undefeated) rather taking a more aggressive strategy and risk losing. Sportswriter Dan Jenkins bitterly wrote that Notre Dame had chosen to "tie one for the Gipper."

Bijou Drains 01-06-2019 06:17 PM

US FB and BB don't have a real minor league to use for relegation. Baseball and the NHL do have real minor leagues but the gap in money, talent, etc. is just too great between those lower level leagues and the major leagues.

kenobi 65 01-06-2019 06:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bijou Drains (Post 21415501)
Baseball and the NHL do have real minor leagues but the gap in money, talent, etc. is just too great between those lower level leagues and the major leagues.

And, a significant proportion of the minor leagues in those sports (particularly the highest levels of the minors) serve as farm teams / developmental teams for the MLB and NHL teams.

DSYoungEsq 01-06-2019 10:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by griffin1977 (Post 21414695)
Yeah, the equivalent in European sport would be a group in something like the Champions League. During the group stage you'll hear a lot of discussion of the placings within the group. I've not heard any in the NFL

It's discussed quite regularly. You're just not paying attention.

But, to be fair, it's not as important. In the Champions' League, for example, the top two teams in each four-team group advance to the knockout stages. They only play 6 games (home-and-away round robin), so each game has a significant effect on the standings in the group and the ability to qualify out. And, they only play teams within the group.

In the NFL, by contrast, each "division" is a four team group, but they play 16 games, of which 6 are home-and-away round robin games, but the rest are spread out among the rest of the NFL. Only the first-place team is guaranteed a playoff spot; when sorting out what other teams qualify for the playoffs, conference standing rather than division (group) standing matters. So it's not like it matters much on Week 6 that, say, Chicago is second in the North Division of the NFC, two games behind the Packers, since there will still be 10 games left to play, and the only place that really matters is first.

In short: unlike most soccer leagues and contests, position in the "table" isn't that important, if it's not first place in a division/conference. As the season wears on, it will quickly become clear who is still in the running for a playoff spot and who is not. If in Major League Baseball, the Yankees are 7 games out of first place in their division at the start of June, no one really cares much. The same thing at the start of September will cause some considerable muttering on the streets of the Bronx. :dubious:

asterion 01-06-2019 11:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kenobi 65 (Post 21415523)
And, a significant proportion of the minor leagues in those sports (particularly the highest levels of the minors) serve as farm teams / developmental teams for the MLB and NHL teams.

To the point where there are contracts between the teams, at least in baseball. The minor league teams are individually owned but the player salaries (which generally aren't very much) are paid by the major league club. Going to a game can still be a good time, but even AAA ball isn't as good as the worst of the majors. And I'm someone who has seen lots and lots of AAA ball over the years, to the point where I go to Isotopes games wearing my one of my old Dukes promotional hats to the game. (It has ads for a supermarket chain that doesn't exist anymore and a radio station that no longer carries the games printed on the back). It's harder these days to care as I'm not a child (when these sorts of things are a matter of life and death) and the team keeps changing its affiliation. Plus the changes in the PCL and consolidation to two AAA leagues means teams that either no longer exist (Calgary Cannons, Edmonton Trappers, and Colorado Springs Sky Sox all spring to mind) or lots of teams further east that I'd never heard of. But the affiliation with the LA Dodgers from when I was a boy is why I'm a Dodgers fan today. Some players I either remember seeing or know I must have seen even if I don't remember (with some assistance from Wikipedia) were Mike Piazza (I used to even have a promotional VHS that was mostly about catching that was made after he made the majors), Pedro Martinez, Paul Konerko, Eric Karros (who I think is doing some broadcasting these days), Raul Mondesi (who's currently in prison in the Dominican Republic for corruption during his time as the mayor of San Cristobal), Jose Offerman (he committed so many throwing errors from shortstop but man was he fast), Todd Hollandsworth, and Chan Ho Park.

kenobi 65 01-07-2019 01:13 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq (Post 21415800)
In the NFL, by contrast, each "division" is a four team group, but they play 16 games, of which 6 are home-and-away round robin games, but the rest are spread out among the rest of the NFL. Only the first-place team is guaranteed a playoff spot; when sorting out what other teams qualify for the playoffs, conference standing rather than division (group) standing matters. So it's not like it matters much on Week 6 that, say, Chicago is second in the North Division of the NFC, two games behind the Packers, since there will still be 10 games left to play, and the only place that really matters is first.

Just to expand on this a little, for the OP:

The NFL has 32 teams. The league is divided into two conferences, as noted earlier: the National Football Conference (the NFC), and the American Football Conference (the NFC), each of which has 16 teams.

Within each conference of 16 teams, there are then four divisions: North, South, East, and West; each division has four teams in it.

And, as others have noted, the "division" terminology may lead one astray, if one thinks of how European football divisions are set up. In the NFL, all eight divisions (and, thus, both conferences) are considered to be on equal footing, as far as organization and level of play.

So, continuing DSYoungEsq's example, the North Division of the National Football Conference (nearly always referred to as "the NFC North") consists of the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions, the Green Bay Packers, and the Minnesota Vikings. The current division alignment was established in 2002, and, generally speaking, most teams are in a division which makes sense for their home city's location, and places them (relatively) close geographically to the other teams in their division. (The few examples where this isn't the case -- like the Dallas Cowboys being in the NFC East, are because of an attempt to preserve old rivalries which predated the current alignment.)

As DSYoungEsq notes, an NFL team plays two games per season (one at home, and one away) against each of the other three teams in its division (for six total games, out of the 16 on the schedule). This familiarity, as well as the fact that these four teams are all competing with one another for the division title (and the associated playoff berth) each season, typically mean that any given team's biggest rivalries will tend to be against one or more of its division-mates.

Of the remaining 10 games on an NFL team's schedule:
- Four games (two at home, two away) are played against the four teams in one of the other three divisions within the team's conference; this rotates on a three-year schedule. For this past season, NFC North teams played against NFC West teams.
- Two games (one at home, one away) are played against teams in the remaining two divisions in the team's conference, which finished the previous season with the same ranking in their own divisions as the team did. So, for this past season, the Packers (who finished third in the NFC North in 2017) played against the Atlanta Falcons (who had finished third in the NFC South) and the Washington Redskins (who had finished third in the NFC East).
- Four games (two at home, two away) are played against the four teams in one division of the other conference; this rotates on a four-year schedule. For this past season, the NFC North played against AFC East teams.

The net of this is, for any given team, is this:
- You see your divisional rivals a lot, because you play each of them twice a year.
- For any given team in another division in your conference, you play them at least once every three years, and potentially a bit more often.
- For any given team in the other conference, you only play them once every four years.

I Love Me, Vol. I 01-07-2019 01:46 AM

You do get an award for having the best record in the MLS but it doesn't mean much*. It's called the Supporter's Shield. The reason they have it is because of how European (and other) soccer leagues award their championships for having the best record.

Interestingly, the MLS wanted nothing to do with it. It started from a grass-roots effort that raised money.






*Within the league itself, but the winner gets a slot in the CONCACAF Champions League.

I Love Me, Vol. I 01-07-2019 01:54 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by That Don Guy (Post 21414924)
One thing I don't think has been answered definitively: why are European league tables listed with the results as wins, then draws, then losses, but in the USA, they are listed as wins, then losses, then draws (er, ties)?

In both places results are listed in order of preference. ;)

I Love Me, Vol. I 01-07-2019 02:02 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bijou Drains (Post 21415501)
US FB and BB don't have a real minor league to use for relegation. Baseball and the NHL do have real minor leagues but the gap in money, talent, etc. is just too great between those lower level leagues and the major leagues.

The talent level would even out enough over time. The real problem is the facilities. A single A baseball club is going to need a bigger stadium if they find themselves promoted to the majors. The 3,000 seat ballpark ain't gonna cut it anymore.

Cheesesteak 01-07-2019 07:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq (Post 21415800)
It's discussed quite regularly. You're just not paying attention.

Or, we're using different words to discuss it than you're expecting.

We're less interested in placement among the rest of the teams than we are playoff positioning.

If you're not getting to the playoffs, you're lumped into the "no playoff" group, without relegation, there's little interest in whether or not you're a few wins ahead or behind another no playoff team.

If you are (or may be) in the playoffs, that is what gets discussed. Are you definitely in, are you not yet eliminated, can you secure a first round bye, or home field advantage? We also get the "Team can get into the playoffs if they beat X and Y, but they also need Z to beat Q or they're out." discussions.

RickJay 01-07-2019 07:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21414662)
That's not a "prize" as I see it. It may be a bit of an advantage for a portion of the playoffs, but once the playoffs end, there's little sense of lasting prestige or accomplishment in having won the division as opposed to entering the playoffs as a wild card.

There is rather a lot of prestige in winning the Super Bowl, and winning your division makes it likelier that you will do that. Anything that makes that likelier is a prize.

The home field advantage in the NFL is approximately five percent. That may not sound like a lot but it's quite significant. Wild card teams simply aren't very likely to win it all; only six have, in something like 40 years of this playoff system.

Perhaps the most significant advantage, though, is conferred upon the two division champions who finish first and second in the conference and thus get a first round bye. The advantages of two weeks off and only having to win three games instead of four are truly massive.

As to the OP, it depends on the sport. This time of year NFL fans are VERY aware of the standings (not "league table") because every games in the last few weeks has huge implications. Fans of basketball and hockey are less attentive right now because

1. We're too early in those seasons to get really worked up about it, and

2. They work differently.

In the NBA, 15 teams in each conference fight for eight playoff spots ranked one to eight. Consequently, most of the 15 teams, even at the end of the season, will either be very clearly in the playoffs or very clearly out. Even now, if you look at the Eastern standings, it is essentially certain that Milwaukee, Toronto, Indiana, Boston and Philadelphia will make the playoffs, and equally certain that Cleveland, Chicago, New York and Atlanta won't; only five or six teams could go either way and by season's end a few of those will be on one side or the other of that line. Fans of teams clearly in or clearly out can't get really worked up about it - unlike a promotion/relegation system where it matters in TWO places on the standings.

In hockey, the playoff system is, to be honest, much more weirdly complex than it needs to be and there's not a lot of point worrying about it until close to season's end.

Baseball isn't being talked about now because it's January, but the standings are REALLY important; it allows fewer teams into the playoffs than the other leagues, and four of the ten spots only entitle your team to a one game playoff for the right to get into the real playoffs. I assure you that baseball fans are keenly aware of their team's position in the standings; baseball is played more or less every day so it can change every night.

RickJay 01-07-2019 08:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by I Love Me, Vol. I (Post 21415972)
You do get an award for having the best record in the MLS but it doesn't mean much*. It's called the Supporter's Shield. The reason they have it is because of how European (and other) soccer leagues award their championships for having the best record.

The NHL has a similar award, the President's Trophy.

Atamasama 01-07-2019 08:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq (Post 21415800)
In the NFL, by contrast, each "division" is a four team group, but they play 16 games, of which 6 are home-and-away round robin games, but the rest are spread out among the rest of the NFL. Only the first-place team is guaranteed a playoff spot; when sorting out what other teams qualify for the playoffs, conference standing rather than division (group) standing matters. So it's not like it matters much on Week 6 that, say, Chicago is second in the North Division of the NFC, two games behind the Packers, since there will still be 10 games left to play, and the only place that really matters is first.

Yes and no. Division standing does matter in one sense. When deciding who qualifies as a wild card team in the playoffs you often have teams with tied records. To resolve that conflict you first determine whether those teams played each other and who won; the winner of that game owns the tiebreaker. If that doesn’t resolve the tie then you determine which team has a better division record (who won more games against teams in their own division), and then that team owns the tiebreaker. So in a sense, division standing somewhat matters beyond being the division champion; or at least your division record matters.

DSYoungEsq 01-07-2019 10:42 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by That Don Guy (Post 21414924)
One thing I don't think has been answered definitively: why are European league tables listed with the results as wins, then draws, then losses, but in the USA, they are listed as wins, then losses, then draws (er, ties)?

In soccer, drawn results have always been rewarded (in the old days, a win was two points, a draw one; now a win is three points, a draw one). Thus, listing wins - draws - losses made clear how the point totals would be calculated.

In the US, in what few games can end in a draw, originally such results were discarded. Thus, for example, in 1930, the NFL Champions were the Green Bay Packers, who finished with 10 wins, 3 losses, and 1 tie, which came in their last game. Second place was the New York Football Giants, who finished the season with 13 wins, 4 losses, and 0 ties. Because the tied game did not get counted in the standings, the Packers finished with a win percentage of .769 (10/13), and the Giants with .765 (13/17). For this reason, listing tied results at the end made sense.

Over time, the method for handling drawn results in the US has changed, but the way the standings list the results has not (we're a stubbornly conservative people about a lot of things, as our insistence on pennies and folding dollar bills shows!). In the current NFL, the Packers would have lost the Championship that year, as the NFL awards a 1/2 win for every tie, and they would have finished at .750 (10.5/14). But ties still go at the end.

DSYoungEsq 01-07-2019 10:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Atamasama (Post 21416303)
Yes and no. Division standing does matter in one sense. When deciding who qualifies as a wild card team in the playoffs you often have teams with tied records. To resolve that conflict you first determine whether those teams played each other and who won; the winner of that game owns the tiebreaker. If that doesn’t resolve the tie then you determine which team has a better division record (who won more games against teams in their own division), and then that team owns the tiebreaker. So in a sense, division standing somewhat matters beyond being the division champion; or at least your division record matters.

The chance of this is relatively remote, and certainly not worth worrying about in the same way that, after two games out of six in the group phase of the UCL, standing in third three points behind second place can cause alarm bells to start ringing. ;)

DSYoungEsq 01-07-2019 10:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by I Love Me, Vol. I (Post 21415981)
The talent level would even out enough over time. The real problem is the facilities. A single A baseball club is going to need a bigger stadium if they find themselves promoted to the majors. The 3,000 seat ballpark ain't gonna cut it anymore.

It's no different in England. Do you think that most fourth division (currently called League Two) have stadia sufficient to support a valid effort at being a Premier League team? Newport County Association Football Club, which just knocked off my beloved Leicester City FC Foxes in the FA Cup on Sunday, play in a stadium with a total capacity of 7,850. If they made the long trek up the tables to the Premier League, they would have been required along the way to upgrade the ground significantly; else they would likely be denied their promotions. But, of course, the vast majority of money that many a Premier League club makes comes from TV revenues being divvied up; the same would be true if, say, the Stockton Ports were promoted from the California League all the way to MLB.

bump 01-07-2019 11:20 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq (Post 21415800)
It's discussed quite regularly. You're just not paying attention.

Or not aware of the terminology; in your post, you mention the Yankees being 7 games back. That right there is the relative position of the Yankees in their relevant league table (i.e. the AL East) to the leading team.

You hear this ALL the time in reference to baseball teams.

Freddy the Pig 01-07-2019 12:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq (Post 21416555)
But, of course, the vast majority of money that many a Premier League club makes comes from TV revenues being divvied up; the same would be true if, say, the Stockton Ports were promoted from the California League all the way to MLB.

No, it wouldn't. The Major League Baseball national TV contracts only generate about $50 million per team per year, a relatively small fraction of total team revenue which runs from about $250 million to $500 million per team per year. The remainder comes from ticket sales and local TV contracts, which are less lucrative in small markets and would be even less lucrative if really small markets could become MLB cities via promotion.

Atamasama 01-07-2019 12:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq (Post 21416543)
The chance of this is relatively remote, and certainly not worth worrying about in the same way that, after two games out of six in the group phase of the UCL, standing in third three points behind second place can cause alarm bells to start ringing. ;)

Not remote at all. It happens often. This year the NFL had a number of wild card contenders near the end of the year with tied records, and divisional records were mentioned frequently when standings were discussed. And the Chargers and Chiefs both ended with 12-4 records, and since they played each other twice (being in the same division) and each one had won one of those games, the division winner came down to whoever had a better division record. The Chiefs went 5-1 in their division (the only loss being that time the Chargers beat them) and the Chargers were 4-2. It determined who was the #1 seed and guaranteed home field until the Super Bowl, and who was a wild card and is unlikely to play any home games in the postseason (and loses a bye week).

I know it’s not the exact situation I described (losing a playoff opportunity) but that also happens often. Last year, every AFC team who got second place in their division was in a 9-7 tie. It’s a frequent consideration.

I will concede that it might not be as big of a deal as in association football, but you can’t say that nobody pays attention. It matters, and it’s set up that way on purpose to force rivalries within a division. Losing to that team you play twice a year matters (slightly) more than losing to someone outside of your division.

Jackknifed Juggernaut 01-07-2019 12:54 PM

Since I watch most of the top European and South American soccer leagues, as well as all the American sports, I understand the OP's question. In soccer, the league table (or standings as we call them) is prominently displayed and shown on all the pre-game, half-time and post-game shows. In fact, as soon as a game starts, they will often show a "live table", which assumes that the score will remain 0-0. Each side is immediately given a point each in the live table until someone scores and a new live table is created. That can only work in soccer, mostly due to the low frequency of scoring. On broadcasts of American sports, it is pretty rare to see the full standings for the entire league (and live tables are non-existent).

Ellis Dee 01-07-2019 01:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Atamasama (Post 21416303)
Yes and no. Division standing does matter in one sense. When deciding who qualifies as a wild card team in the playoffs you often have teams with tied records. To resolve that conflict you first determine whether those teams played each other and who won; the winner of that game owns the tiebreaker. If that doesn’t resolve the tie then you determine which team has a better division record (who won more games against teams in their own division), and then that team owns the tiebreaker. So in a sense, division standing somewhat matters beyond being the division champion; or at least your division record matters.

Division record only comes into play for wildcard standings if the tied teams are in the same division. If they aren't in the same division, the division record isn't used at all. I believe they go to conference record, but possibly "common games" is ahead of conference record if they played enough common games. (3, I think?)

As a made-up example, Imagine the last wildcard spot is up for grabs between 3 teams with the same record. Let's say Falcons, Panthers and Vikings. The first step is to ignore the Vikings and decide between the Falcons and Panthers based on divisional tiebreakers. Let's say the Falcons win that tiebreaker. Now the wildcard tiebreaking rules come into play between the Falcons and Vikings, and their respective division records don't matter anymore.

garygnu 01-07-2019 01:35 PM

One more thing, while NFL standings will get some sort of mention during the broadcast of a game, it's something that's much more discussed during the endless talk between games. We gotta fill each week somehow.

Ambihelical Hexnut 01-07-2019 04:55 PM

Regarding the order of the columns in league tables: here in the UK, wins - draws - losses is always the order used for soccer, as mentioned above. But league tables for limited-overs cricket tend to use the American-style column ordering of wins - losses - [ties + no-results]. (A no-result is just another name for a rained-out match; such games are not postponed to a later date). Maybe this order is used for cricket because, just like in American football, ties can occur, but are rare.

penultima thule 01-07-2019 08:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jackknifed Juggernaut (Post 21416847)
In fact, as soon as a game starts, they will often show a "live table". ... That can only work in soccer, mostly due to the low frequency of scoring.

Both AFL and NRL telecasts in Australia will show a "live table" and game scores change way more frequently than soccer though the lead in the game and teams W/L status less so.

It's also seen occasionally in the BBL cricket.

kenobi 65 01-07-2019 08:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jackknifed Juggernaut (Post 21416847)
On broadcasts of American sports, it is pretty rare to see the full standings for the entire league (and live tables are non-existent).

What we see, instead, are live updates of scores from the other games in progress.

asterion 01-07-2019 08:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kenobi 65 (Post 21417692)
What we see, instead, are live updates of scores from the other games in progress.

And if it's the NFL, lots of fantasy updates.

Jackknifed Juggernaut 01-07-2019 10:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by penultima thule (Post 21417674)
Both AFL and NRL telecasts in Australia will show a "live table" and game scores change way more frequently than soccer though the lead in the game and teams W/L status less so.

It's also seen occasionally in the BBL cricket.

So in the midst of a game, if the score is tied 0-0, the table shows each team with a draw on its record? That seems odd considering that draws are presumably not very common.

penultima thule 01-07-2019 10:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jackknifed Juggernaut (Post 21417816)
So in the midst of a game, if the score is tied 0-0, the table shows each team with a draw on its record? That seems odd considering that draws are presumably not very common.

You'd see the live ladder in the pre-game.
The two teams would have an asterix to denote they had a game in hand.
It usually doesn't take very long for a team to score in Aussie Rules.
I haven't taken that much notice in the past but you probably wouldn't see it the live score until later in the game. It's obviously maintained live but the broadcast would likely only use it if the current score caused a change in the ladder. I can't recall an instance of the ladder being shown when the scores were tied.
You'd see the live ladder in the post-game even if there are other fixtures of the round being/still to be played.

Pixel_Dent 01-08-2019 07:29 AM

In olden days my memory is that the league standings were mentioned more often. My guess is that they're mentioned less often for the same reason that most people no longer buy TV Guide magazine or check the newspaper for movie listings. If I want to see the league standings I no longer check the paper or turn on ESPN, I just type "NFL" into the search field on my cell phone and get the full table in a few seconds.

Pleonast 01-08-2019 12:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by penultima thule (Post 21417840)
The two teams would have an asterix to denote they had a game in hand.

The phrase "game in hand" is unclear to me. Does it mean the two teams are actively playing the game, or that they just finished? Context seems to indicate the former, but without that I would think the latter. As in "a bird in hand is worth two in the bush", "in hand" means completed.

Atamasama 01-08-2019 12:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pleonast (Post 21418639)
The phrase "game in hand" is unclear to me. Does it mean the two teams are actively playing the game, or that they just finished? Context seems to indicate the former, but without that I would think the latter. As in "a bird in hand is worth two in the bush", "in hand" means completed.

I think of “in hand” as being “in progress”, like something being currently in your hand (and being used).

A bird in the hand isn’t “completed”, it’s literally in your hand. The point of the proverb isn’t that it’s better to have one thing done than have two things in progress. It means that if you already have a bird in your hand, you don’t let it escape for the chance to get two birds, because there’s no guarantee that you’ll catch them.

Anyway, as an American I’d assume “in hand” to mean it’s currently happening, even though it’s not a term I’m completely familiar with.

Telemark 01-08-2019 01:02 PM

If Team A has played one fewer game than Team B, it has a "game in hand". Which means that Team A has another game to play in order to gain points that Team B doesn't have.

ElvisL1ves 01-08-2019 01:04 PM

If Team B has one more win than Team A, they have a game in hand.

garygnu 01-08-2019 01:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves (Post 21418797)
If Team B has one more win than Team A, they have a game in hand.

No. A game in hand means a match that hasn't been played yet when rivals have already played the equivalent.

If hockey team A has won 36 games out of 52, and team B has won 35 games out of 50, team B may be behind in the current standings but have two games in hand.

No, it doesn't match up with the "bird in the hand" colloquialism.

ElvisL1ves 01-08-2019 01:30 PM

Nope. Having to do more than the other team, like win one more game, is the opposite of having anything in hand. "In hand" means you've almost achieved something, such as finishing ahead of the other team.

DSYoungEsq 01-08-2019 01:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves (Post 21418870)
Nope. Having to do more than the other team, like win one more game, is the opposite of having anything in hand. "In hand" means you've almost achieved something, such as finishing ahead of the other team.

You are, sir, incorrect in your understanding of the application of the phrase "game in hand" to sports situations under discussion.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/...a-game-in-hand

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_in_hand

ISiddiqui 01-08-2019 02:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq (Post 21418952)
You are, sir, incorrect in your understanding of the application of the phrase "game in hand" to sports situations under discussion.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/...a-game-in-hand

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_in_hand

Indeed. Think of the games of a season as tokens which are being spent. If you have played one less game, that means you have spent one less token and therefore have one more in your hand than the other person.

Btw, league tables are less spoken of, but how far a team is from the top team in the division or a playoff spot is very much spoken about. So it's different.

Atamasama 01-08-2019 03:11 PM

I never see the “in hand” (or equivalent) mentioned in standings for American sports (football is the only one I follow closely, though I casually follow baseball). But it sure would be... handy. (Sorry.) I have to guess, so if one football team is 9-2 and the other is 8-2 I assume the 8-2 has played one fewer game (either they had their bye week and the other didn’t, or they haven’t played this week’s game yet). It would be nice to not have to do that quick mental math all the time and have it spelled out explicitly.

kenobi 65 01-08-2019 03:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Atamasama (Post 21419141)
I never see the “in hand” (or equivalent) mentioned in standings for American sports (football is the only one I follow closely, though I casually follow baseball).

I hear it occasionally in relation to baseball, particularly when you get to the last quarter of the season, and there's a tight divisional race (though it's not always worded precisely as "in hand").

In the NFL, once a week's games have been played there's never a gap of more than one game played from team to team, and even that gap vanishes for the last month of the season (as all of the teams have taken their bye week by then).

Conversely, in MLB, because games are scheduled on a daily basis, the timing of days off for teams varies, and (maybe more importantly) because rainouts are sometimes not rescheduled for months (if at all), it's not uncommon to see larger differences in the numbers of games played from team to team.

Telemark 01-08-2019 03:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Atamasama (Post 21419141)
I never see the “in hand” (or equivalent) mentioned in standings for American sports (football is the only one I follow closely, though I casually follow baseball). But it sure would be... handy.

It doesn't really work in football (or basketball or baseball), since points don't really matter. All that matters is your record. For the sake of this discussion let's leave football ties out of it. If Team A is 11-4 and Team B is 12-4, you know Team A needs to win their last game to match Team B's record.

In hockey, points matter. So if you're near the end of the season and Boston has played one fewer game than Montreal, but they have the same number of points then they have a "Game in hand". Boston has one more game in which to score a point (either by winning or losing in a shootout). There's no guarantee they'll end up ahead of Montreal in the standings, but they have an opportunity.

penultima thule 01-08-2019 04:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Telemark (Post 21418790)
If Team A has played one fewer game than Team B, it has a "game in hand".

+1

Team A ... Played 10, Win 7, Draw 1, Loss 2, Pts 30
Team B ... Played 9, Win 7, Draw 1, Loss 1, Pts 30
Team C ... Played 8, Win 7, Draw 1, Loss 0 Pts 30


Team A has "played an extra game"
Team B has "a game in hand"
Team C has "two games in hand"

asterion 01-08-2019 04:57 PM

I've never heard "in hand" and the closest I can think of is being half a game back.

Atamasama 01-08-2019 05:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kenobi 65 (Post 21419210)
In the NFL, once a week's games have been played there's never a gap of more than one game played from team to team, and even that gap vanishes for the last month of the season (as all of the teams have taken their bye week by then).

True, but with games on Sunday, Thursday, and Monday (and sometimes Saturday once college football ends regular season games) you can lose track. And I’m sure it happens where Team A hasn’t had a bye week and played on Thursday, and Team B had a bye week and plays on Monday, and you check the schedule on Sunday and see that Team A is 4-2 and Team B is 4-0. So it can seem weird temporarily with a two game gap. :)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Telemark (Post 21419218)
It doesn't really work in football (or basketball or baseball), since points don't really matter. All that matters is your record. For the sake of this discussion let's leave football ties out of it. If Team A is 11-4 and Team B is 12-4, you know Team A needs to win their last game to match Team B's record.

True, the important thing is win percentage, so it doesn’t matter as far as standings go. But it’d be nice to know I guess.

Pleonast 01-08-2019 08:24 PM

Seems I wasn’t the only one not understanding the term “in hand”. Thanks for the ignorance fighting!

Jackknifed Juggernaut 01-09-2019 10:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by asterion (Post 21419359)
I've never heard "in hand" and the closest I can think of is being half a game back.

Perhaps you’ve never noticed it, but I hear it all the time at the end of the MLB, NBA and NHL seasons, when teams competing for playoff spots have a mismatch in number of games left. If you regularly watch these sports, I guarantee that you’ll notice it next time. It’s one of those phrases that you start hearing all time after never noticing it before (kind of like after noticing the arrow in the FedEx symbol). I predict this will happen during the last week of March.

Jackknifed Juggernaut 01-09-2019 11:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Atamasama (Post 21419374)
....True, the important thing is win percentage, so it doesn’t matter as far as standings go. But it’d be nice to know I guess.

But with the knowledge that all teams will have played the same number of games at the end of the season, “games in hand” allow one team more opportunity to improve its win percentage, and by a greater margin, versus its competition. That’s what makes it an important and significant variable.


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