Sports competitions that are almost "perfect" you'd be least likely to tweak

  1. NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
    I can’t think of anything more pure than the top 16 NHL teams facing off against each other in a single elimination, best of 7 advances anything can happen tournament. Even a low seed can win it all, and players seem to turn the intensity up a notch. Plus there’s the tradition and respect of the teams shaking each other’s hands after a brutal series and the respect for one of the oldest trophies in sports. One can argue about the length of the season and the method of seeding but once the playoffs start, it’s game on!

  2. March Madness. Again you can argue with the selection process but is there anything more pure than sixty four college basketball
    teams from across the country from dozens of leagues taking each other in a one and done single elimination tournament. The upsets, the brackets, does it get any more exciting than this? Only change I’d make is get rid of the First Four in Dayton. It’s humiliating and no one really cares about the play in games.

  3. Could be applied to many leagues but if there is anything more Darwinian than the FA or most relegation/promotion leagues? As one commentator said, “the Table does not lie”.

Golf tournaments are pretty solid. Big field, 4 days to play, lowest score wins. The cut half way through ensures you’re not dealing with a huge crowd of players who can’t win that week, but whether you’re cut and whether you win is 100% merit based.

The rules of golf are something that could be tweaked, but the competition itself is hard to improve on.

Any of the soccer league with a completely balanced schedule and no playoffs. I’m ambivalent about promotion/relegation. Makes perfect sense for a competition, but it probably exacerbates the super-club phenomenon which I think probably isn’t the greatest thing for the sport.

+1 for the Stanley Cup. The level of play, the traditions, the trophy that regular grunts on the team get their name engraved on for eternity, and can take home and eat their Wheaties out of. I also like that the final game is played at one-or-the-other team’s home ice with primarily hometown fans (not some neutral place that shows well on TV).

Pretty much all tennis Grand Slams are legit and awesome. Seeding is not always perfect, but close enough.

I think everyone agrees that the College Football Playoff system is perfect…

I don’t think it’s the pro/rel part of those leagues which are as responsible for competitive imbalance as much as the inability for all clubs at a certain level to agree to salary caps similar to American sports.

Besides, promotion gives every club in the land hope. Relegation couples it with fear. It’s delicious.

FWEEEEEEEEE! Into the penalty box with you!

I was going to add the Masters as my 4 but had to go. That and the US Open are the only golf tourneys I watch. But the Masters is on the same course every year, and you still see it beat veterans who have played at Augusta dozens of times and still cant get it right. To me winning the Masters is an ultimate sporting accomplishment.

You are 100% correct on March Madness being perfect once the stupid play-in games are eliminated.

For hockey, the playoffs are great, but when more than half the teams get in, it does make the regular season feel kind of meaningless. The Stanley Cup tour is the best thing in all of sports.
I might have said the (soccer) World Cup, with a reasonable number of teams, a fun group stage that’s half serious and half warm-up/exhibition, and then tense knock-out rounds; enough games to make a big event, but not so many that it’s ridiculous/impossible to follow. But of course FIFA had to monkey with it; those second-rate teams won’t bribe themselves, after all. Or I guess they will, which is the point.

I’d prefer a 32 team NCAA tournament, but that’s not going to happen. I very rarely do a bracket these days as it seems more like a spreadsheet for work than entertainment. But, I do admit it’s a fun weekend with all those games and it’s the first major sports event after the Super Bowl unless it’s an Olympic Year.

NHL playoffs are perfect. Yes, a lot of teams get in, but you very rarely see horrible mismatches and sweeps in the first round. The current format also keeps teams close to their own time zone most of the time during the first two rounds.

The NFL seems to have it right with starting the season the Thursday after Labor Day and then wrapping up in early February, although I do wish they’d eliminate the 2 week gap before the Super Bowl.

I did a March Madness bracket once. It was a work thing with colleagues that I’d previously played with in a fantasy football league (and I came in 3rd, not bad).

I was resistant to trying it because I know almost nothing about college basketball and I said as much when I was asked to join. They said it didn’t really matter because it’s impossible to accurately predict outcomes and it’s all for fun. So I said okay.

Since I didn’t know what I was doing and it was arbitrary I decided to have fun with it. I took each round 1 matchup and since they were one game eliminations between two teams, I flipped a coin. Heads, the first team won, tails the second team won. I did that for each round including the championship game. And then I had my bracket! Again, if it’s arbitrary I might as well let it be random.

…I didn’t do well. At all. I think by the time we were at 8 teams I no longer had any teams left on my bracket. It was pretty sad. But at least I participated!

Including 64 teams is silly - a meaningless way to increase revenue. I think only two or three teams seeded worse than 10th have ever made the final four, and the lowest to win the tournament was seeded 8th.

One thing that tends to make sports qualify would be a near absence of any need for judges or official rulings.

Accordingly, it’s hard to see how track and field events could be improved by tweaking: a foot race, broad / high jumping, javelin, etc. are pretty close to “pure”. Ditto for swimming, ski racing, etc.

Golf deserves mention - official rulings are rarely needed and mostly of low consequence (e.g. Do I get relief because my ball is close enough to this man-made object?).

I don’t think it is all that great. It is purely designed to favor the best teams. The 16 seed has to play the number 1 seed? Come one. If they adjusted this a bit for each pair, like this:

16 plays 2
15 plays 1

14 plays 4
13 plays 3

It would give a lot of teams a chance to make it further. But they don’t want that.


You think a tournament to determine the champion shouldn’t favor the best teams? :confused:

Your suggestion gives teams an incentive to tank late in the season in order to get worse seeding in the tournament, in order to get a better matchup. There’s a reason why every major sport I know of does it this way. You want to create a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.

I like the format of the Champions League.

Home/away matches for teams entering low on the totem pole. Losers getting bumped over to the Europa league. Then eight groups of four with home/aways. Two winners from each advance to home/away knockouts. And all of it is randomly drawn and redrawn.

I kinda wish the final was also two legged, but realize it just won’t happen.

I used to like the system in the NBA and Big 10 football/basketball.

In the NBA, each team played every other team in it’s “division/conference? - East or West” IIRC 6-7 times, and each team in the other conference twice - home and alone. As a fan, that made each game throughout a long season more meaningful.

In the Big 10 (when there were only 10), football played each other team once, alternating home and away every other year. Basketball played each other team twice, home and away. The conference champ was based on the regular season record within the conference. No playoff/championship game. Yeah - that was pretty much a perfect system, which I could not imagine changing/improving in any way/ So - of course - they did! :wink:


I love Big XII basketball with the double round robin.

Absolutely hate that there’s now a 1 v 2 championship game in football. YOU ALREADY PLAYED THE GAME!