Sports Championships

In general, it seems that tournament championships are more prestigious than regular season championships. Is this just a result of hype? It seems to me that regular season championships should be more important, because each team plays a full schedule against all the other teams, and there is more time and opportunity for the cream to the rise to the top. In tournament play, it seems, there is too much opportunity for flukes and upsets.

Ah! A Yankee or Braves fan! :slight_smile:

In a championship, you’re going up against the best and playing under pressure. The fact that there are flukes and upsets make it that much more challenging. The great teams and players manage to rise above (though not winning a championship does not take anything away from a great player’s career).

Plus, you’re not going up against terrible teams to fatten your won loss percentage. Since leagues are too big to have balanced schedule, the regular season doesn’t necessarily show the strength of a team. And it’s not even that great a guide; I seem to recall one team (Atlanta, I think) that won its first ten or so games in a row, played just over .500 ball the rest of the year, yet still was the league champion.

However, and I am only referring to NHL, MLB, NFL and NBA, when the season is over you have 4-6 teams at the top of their division. To be honest it is an honor but it doesn’t mean anything once the playoffs start. Many of these teams might not of even played each other during the regular season. It leaves the void of wondering if you were really the best team.

To be able to sucessfully compete (make the playoffs) during a full season and then defeat all the other top teams in the league leaves you alone at the top as the winner.

Ask the Yankees how it feels to have the best record in Baseball this season and then lose to the Angels. It doesn’t mean squat.

Thank you Anaheim!!

Actually, I’m a Cincinnati fan, so I don’t have a dog in this hunt :smiley:

I wasn’t thinking so much of baseball, because there are relatively fewer teams in the playoffs than in other sports. But, for example in the NHL, the English soccer leagues and in American college sports, it seems the tournament includs almost as many teams as the regular season and goes on for almost as long. Why not just dispense with the regular season then and just play tournaments?

The reason playoff or tournament chamionships are hyped more than the rest is money. That’s true whether it’s professional or amateur sports.

Don’t forget the NBA. I am a hockey fan not a basketball fan and it always pisses me off when people say “every team makes the playoffs in hockey”. Not true. 16 of the 30 teams make the playoffs. 16 of 29? basketball teams make the playoffs.

Sorry, I’m not mad at you its just one of my pet peeves.

Granted the % of teams years ago in the NHL that made the playoffs was greater. Now that they have expanded the league a lower % make the playoffs. My GD Rangers haven’t been there in 5 years.

As aahala said, its all about the money.

But, in most sports a regular season championship is relatively meaningless because teams don’t play a full schedule against all other teams.

In the NFL, each team plays division foes twice and the remaining 10 games are split up in a variety of ways. After that, a schedule tends to be waited based on how you did last year. That is how some teams end up with a 1st place schedule instead of a 4th place schedule. One tends to include teams with a higher winning percentage the previous year. As a hyothetical, look at Baltimore. They play in the AFC North, which is pretty weak this year. They can feast on their six games within the division and then take advantage of a weaker schedule based on last season’s poor showing to end up with a decent record. At the same time, Oakland has 6 games versus much tougher competition in their division and a tougher first place schedule. The Ravens would have a better regular season record versus weak competition, but the Raiders are likely a better team that had tougher games. The playoffs give both teams an opportunity to show their wares against the best teams.

I WAS a fanatical Yankee fan in my teens, but haven’t paid much attention to baseball in many years. So, while you’re encouraged to take anything I say with a grain of salt, it’s not because I have an emotional stake in how things turn out this year.

There IS, however, a big difference between baseball and most other major team sports: in baseball (repeat after me!), THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN UPSET!

If Slippery Rock plays 100 football games against the Miami Hurricanes, you expect Miami to slaughter them 100 times. If Slippery Rock wins even once, we’re astonished! That’s a major upset we talk about for years to come.

If Shaq and the 2001 Lakers played 50 games against the 2001 Chicago Bulls, you’d expect the Lakers to win at least 48 or 49 times. It would shock people to see the Bulls beat the Lakers this year, and everybody would be talking about it around the water cooler the next day.

But in major league baseball, not only CAN a lousy team beat a great team, it WILL, several times each season. Yankee fans may be annoyed if the Devil Rays take a game from the Yanks. They may be furious if the Devil Rays take 3 out of 4 games in a weekend series. But is anybody ASTONISHED? No- baseball fans know that such things happen regularly. That’s the way baseball is- sometimes a Randy Johnson just doesn’t have his best stuff, and gets shelled. Sometimes a Don Larsen DOES have good stuff and is unhittable for one afternoon. Sometimes a Dave Winfield goes into a slump, and sometimes an Al Weis hits a clutch homer. In one game, or in a short series, anything can happen in baseball.

Oh, over the LONG run, the best players and best teams emerge. Over a 162 game season, Randy Johnson will win his 20 games, and Don Larsen will win his 10. Over a 162 game season, a Dave Winfield will bat .320, and Al Weis will be at the Mendoza Line. Over the full season, the Yankees will end up 40 games ahead of the Devil Rays. And that’s why baseball has always had such a long season- to give the best players and teams time to rise to the top.

Now, I’m an old fogey who prefers the way things used to be. I don’t like having multiple divisions in baseball, and I HATE wild cards. I liked the old way- every team in each league competing for one pennant. To me, that’s the only fair way to determine the best team in each league.

But, of course, baseball hasn’t done it that way since 1968! So, the “problem” the OP describes in hardly new. I mean, even before the major leagues went to 3 divisions, there were many cases in which a weak team that won a division with a poor record made it to the World Series over a much better team with a much better records (think of the 82-80 Mets topping the Big Red Machine in 1973).

But while I don’t approve of multiple divisions, wild cards, and playoffs, well… complaining about that is like complaining about the weather! My disapproval can’t change the weather, and it can’t restore the old order in baseball. Multiple divisions, wild cards and playoff give more fans hope that their team can make the playoffs, and that’s good for attendance and ratings. So, from a purely financial standpoint, it wouldn’t make sense to go back to the old way… even if the end result would be worthier teams in the World Series. Baseball makes a lot more money this way, which means there’s no way they’ll change the current system… except, perhaps, to allow even MORE teams into the playoffs.

If that means occasional weak sisters make it to the Fall Classic, well, that’s the way it goes.

A gross oversimplification. The reason why there’s money to be made is that the fans want to see it.

Look at college football. For years, the fans clamored for a game that would decide a national champion. And when you have fans clamoring for something, there’s money to be made.

It’s the same for the increase in postseason berths. People want to see them. People want their favorite team to be in them. If the fans didn’t want that, they wouldn’t exist.

The above explanation is the best. Fans love the concept of a game that is considered to be for the big money, with everything on the line.

There is a lot of inherent drama in such games. Most of us remember a big World Series home run (see Gibson, Kirk 1988) rather than an equally dramatic home run that may happen in a regular season game in May.

What Astorian said.

Let’s say Major League Baseball used the NHL/NBA playoff format, with 16 teams total making the cut, 8 in each league. This is the way the American League playoffs would have been seeded:

(1) Yankees (103-58) vs. (8) Blue Jays (78-84)
(2) Athletics (103-59) vs. (7) White Sox (81-81)
(3) Twins (94-67) vs. (6) Red Sox (93-69)
(4) Angels (99-63) vs. (5) Mariners (93-69)

In practice, this severely penalizes the Yankees by making it very difficult to win the World Series despite having won 103 games, and makes it very likely a mediocre team could win the pennant. In baseball, it would not be the slightest bit unusual for the Blue Jays to beat the Yankees; I’d bet on the Yankees but the Jays would have at least a 25-35 percent chance of knocking them out. In fact, the Blue Jays and Yankees played a 4-game series in September, their rosters essentially fixed to what they’d be in the postseason, and guess who won 3 out of 4 games? The Blue Jays.

In basketball, the likelihood of the #1 ranked team losing to the #8 ranked team is extraordinarily remote; it does happen if the conference is unusually balanced, but for the most part a 63-19 team is not going to lose to a 43-39 team. The nature of the sport is different. It is pretty much impossible, no matter what you hear about Shaq, for one or two players to win a series singlehandedly. But if the Yankees run into Roy Halladay when he’s hot and throw a meatball to Carlos Delgado at the wrong time, the Blue Jays get to move on and the Yankees lose in five. Baseball, unlike basketball, is a sport wherein bench strength and pitching depth don’t mean as much in the postseason as they do in the regular season.

Football lies somewhere in the middle. Football allows 12 teams into the playoffs, more than baseball, less than the NHL or NBA. Similarly, I would argue the likelihood of an upset lies somewhere in the middle.

In the case of these sports I think the number of teams allowed into the postseason is reasonable. Baseball does not allow 16 teams in because it’s far too likely a team like the '02 Blue Jays could get hot and win the World Series (especially when, as with the '02 Jays, they were awful in April and excellent with different players in September, so the team going into the postseason is better than the team’s actual performance through the year.) On the other hand, basketball as far less to fear from #8-seeded teams, who will not upset the favourites unless they play truly magnificent basketball.

Personally, I think the playoff systems for MLB, football and the NBA are about what they should be. The NHL’s is excessive.

I’m a huge hockey fan and even I have to laugh at their playoff system sometimes. In the original 6 days, 4 teams made the playoffs. As recently as 1991, 16 of 21 teams made the playoffs. All you had to do to make the playoffs was not finish last in your division, except for the east (Smythe was it?) that had 6 teams. Perhaps weirdest about this was in 1991 a sub-.500 team made the Stanley Cup finals–the Minnesota North Stars. They lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

RickJay, are you sure you meant that the NHL is excessive? Not the NBA? From reading your post you give good reason for the NBA to slim down their playoff format. Why have the #1 seed play a dud? Why not give them a bye? Although, we know with the money involved this would never happen.

You say it is ok for a #1 seed in the NBA to play a walk over #8 seed than to have a #1 play a more competitive #8 seed in the NHL? All the NHL teams and players know going into the season that although finishing first is an honor (and gets you home ice advantage), the real test comes playoff time. The more competitive the match ups the better it is and the sweeter the victory.

THe NHL playoffs are far and away the most exciting in sports and one of the reasons is the fierce competition.

However, I would prefer the NHL trim down the number of team in the league and then trim down the number of playoff team. But it is not likely to ever happen. I agree in the past that the number of team that made the playoffs was excessive but not in todays NHL.