|12-06-2005, 03:32 PM||#1|
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Charlotte, NC
[Sports Central Newsletter] #131 - Why the BCS Still Doesn't Work
The Sports Central Newsletter
December 2005 - Issue #131
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|-- IN THIS ISSUE... --|
* Words From the Editor
* The O-Files: "Why the BCS Still Doesn't Work"
* Editor's Pick: "MLB Jeopardizes 2006 Season For Nationals"
* Hot Topics From the SCMB
* Shots From the Lip: "The Parody of Parity"
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|-- WORDS FROM THE EDITOR --|
This might be the last issue for 2005, but it's the beginning of a new era. As announced last month, Mike Round has stepped down from his position (although not entirely from the site, thankfully). This month, we usher in a new era as Bob Ekstrom takes over the "Shots From the Lip" column. Bob is a very talented writer hailing from New England, and he will be able to inject fresh energy into our little newsletter while also expanding its areas of coverage compared to before. Don't miss his debut column below and let us know what you think!
It's astonishing to think that the next time we come to you will be on New Year's Day 2006. We'll be heading into our eighth year of business, and really want to thank you for being a reader. Our site's audience has more than doubled in just a year, and it only makes our efforts all the more worthwhile. Fun tidbit to put things into perspective: SC started before there was a Google.com. Considering how we all rely on it on a daily basis, it really must have been a different age when this site started. Here's to another year of prosperity and the wonderful, although sometimes tainted, world of sports that ultimately unites us.
-- Marc James
Sports Central Owner & Founder
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|-- THE O-FILES --|
WHY THE BCS STILL DOESN'T WORK
By Brad Oremland
Given enough opportunities, even the most ill-conceived idea will yield some positive results. The BCS is not the most ill-conceived idea, so it's not surprising that it occasionally gives us something worthwhile, like this year's Rose Bowl. USC vs. Texas is the matchup everyone wants to see, and this January the Bowl Championship Series will deliver that game.
Don't mistake this as reason to praise the BCS, though. The system lucked into exactly two undefeated major-conference teams this season, but most years, that won't happen. Take last season, when five Division I-A teams went undefeated. SEC Champion Auburn was relegated to the Sugar Bowl and never got a chance to play for the top ranking. 11-0 Utah pounded Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. Boise State wasn't even included in the BCS, losing to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl. Didn't Auburn and Utah, at least, deserve a chance to compete for the top ranking? How can you call it a national championship if a third of the country thinks the best team didn't even get invited?
2004 wasn't even the worst year the BCS has had. The year before, Oklahoma, LSU, and USC all finished with one loss. Louisiana State defeated Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, USC handled fourth-ranked Michigan in Pasadena, and the AP and Coaches polls voted different champions. People talk about Southern Cal's shot at a three-peat, but in 2003, they didn't even play in the official title game.
In 2001, Miami was a consensus number one, but there was significant debate over Nebraska's selection as the Hurricanes' opponent in the Rose Bowl, even before the Huskers lost in a blowout. That was the year that people really started getting fired up about the inequity of the BCS.
Each of those scenarios could occur again. Or what if you mix and match something like an undefeated Utah (2004) with a group of one-loss teams (2003). How do you tell a team that won every game that you're going to crown a national champion, but it's not going to participate in the process? Add to all this the constant changes to correct problems with the ranking system itself, and the BCS is a certified disaster.
None of the problems has been fixed. The system changes a little each year, and every year a new problem is tweaked. The BCS is such a disgrace that the Associated Press demanded the BCS not use its rankings as part of the system any more. Instead of all these little changes, the BCS should be adapted into an eight-team playoff.
I know there are still a lot of purists who prefer the old bowl system, and while I don't entirely understand their opposition to a playoff, I agree that the traditional bowl system was better than the BCS, which is an abomination. But if you put any stock in the notion of a "national champion" — and the major press outlets have been naming one for almost as long as the game has existed — then the process of determining one has to be more inclusive.
Would this devalue the regular season? Only marginally. No seventh- or eighth-ranked team is going to run the table and beat three top opponents. You'd have to really bleed blue and gold to see Notre Dame beating USC, LSU, and Texas in succession. You dream in scarlet and gray if you think the Buckeyes would take out Penn State, Texas, and USC.
So why invite those teams at all? Ohio State has two losses and was already beaten by the Nittany Lions. Notre Dame is 9-2 and lost at home to USC. But by taking the top eight teams, you're not leaving anybody out. The important thing is to have everyone who might be the top team involved, not to avoid having anyone else involved. In years like this, that will lead to some superfluous participants, but last season, it gets Utah and Cal in the door, as well as Boise State (if you allow for a provision that any undefeated team with at least ten I-A wins automatically gets a spot). In a given year, there are usually four or five teams with some legitimate claim at a chance to play for the national title, so if the ninth-ranked team really wants to complain about being left out, we can safely ignore them.
The stated goal of the BCS is to produce a national champion. With respect to that goal, the BCS is a failure. There's a tiny minority of fans who hate the idea of a national champion, and who would like nothing so much as to never know who would win a game between Texas and USC. For those people, the BCS is as bad as a playoff, and for the rest of us, it's worse. If the object of college football's postseason is to determine a national champion, an eight-team playoff would do the trick. The BCS does not.
Brad welcomes your feedback: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=O-Files
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)
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|-- EDITOR'S PICK --|
There have been 16 new articles posted on Sports Central in the last week. Check them all out at: http://www.sports-central.org. The Editor's Pick is:
MLB JEOPARDIZES 2006 SEASON FOR NATIONALS
By Diane Grassi
Not unlike the on-again off-again dash to finalize an agreement with Washington, DC in December '04 with MLB, the end of 2005 looms large for the Washington Nationals, forcing the team into a state of flux for the 2006 season, without an owner.
|-- HOT TOPICS FROM THE SCMB --|
What's the buzz at the ultimate sports fan community?
[MLB] Will the White Sox repeat in 2006?
[MLB] A-Rod or Jeter in Center?
[NBA] Reggie Miller is biased
[NBA] Is Kobe shooting too much?
[NFL] Is Vick Finally Getting It?
[NFL] Top 12 QBs 2005
[NFL] Michael Irvin Arrested
[NHL] Crosby and Ovechkin: The next ones
[NCB] I've missed you, college basketball. Come to papa.
[NCF] Bowl Projections
[NCF] I've seen some BS calls before....
[LOUNGE] HDTV is only half the fun...
|-- SHOTS FROM THE LIP --|
THE PARODY OF PARITY
By Bob Ekstrom
Every fan has witnessed it, has ridden it, has swum upstream against its prevailing currents, that imbalance of power that creeps into the pro game despite every attempt to maintain equilibrium.
Since the configuration of each professional league as we know them today, there have been few periods when at least one sport hasn't experienced prolonged dominance by one particular division or conference. Today, it is happening to an unprecedented degree, leaving three professional leagues — the NBA, NFL, and MLB — anticipating the next swing of momentum, a changing of the guard.
Here at Sports Central, we're experiencing a changing of the guard, as well, one that I hope will not so much swing momentum as maintain it. My esteemed colleague, Michael Round, is moving on to other pursuits. (Note: Mike's going to remain a contributor to the site. — Ed.) While I'm extremely honored that, from the vast arsenal of talent at his disposal, Marc James has asked me to follow in Mike's wake, I also appreciate the magnitude of his request.
As an aside, it is not too early for our young but energetic newsletter to establish a sense of tradition. With this in mind, I would like to carry on Mike's column, albeit with my own unique perspective. Shots from the lip is what you will get, but seasoned with a New Englander's accent.
As a lifelong New Englander and Boston professional sports fan, I can testify that the imbalance in pro sports has, by and large, been a swim upstream for me, notwithstanding the success this great city has experienced in its storied past.
Take professional basketball. In two major eras, the Boston Celtics battled through Eastern Conference powers while the hated Lakers advanced out of the West without so much as a bead of sweat forming on their collective foreheads.
In the 1960s, Boston perpetually coped with not one, but two incarnations of Philadelphia powers — the Warriors and the 76ers. Exasperating this, the most dominant player of his era played for each. Just imagine the diametric emotions Bostonians felt as we first celebrated Wilt Chamberlain's move West with the Warriors in 1963, then were stunned by his return to Philadelphia less than two years later.
Of course, the NBA played a balanced schedule through 1967, so conference alignments were less significant until the playoffs. Then, all roads to the Eastern Conference title went through Philadelphia. In the meantime out West, the Lakers entertained all variety of wayfarers along their Autobahn to the Finals.
In the 1980s, the Celtics again shared the east with Philadelphia and the Detroit Pistons. Over an 11-year span from 1980-1990, a fresh Lakers squad appeared in nine Finals — winning five — while Philadelphia, Boston, and Detroit had to split the pot, the former and latter each winning three Eastern Conference titles to the Celtics' five.
The 1990s belonged to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. There was no escaping the east bracket, excepting those seasons Jordan chose not to play. On the contrary, mediocrity ruled in the right-hand columns of the NBA standings. Every Western team competed for — and six different teams won — conference titles from 1991-1998.
Since the late-1998 strike, dominance has been vested in the west where the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs have won six of the last seven championships. The Celtics, for their part, are enjoying time at the trough in arguably the weakest division in basketball — the Atlantic — which they captured with only 45 wins last season.
So too can be said of Boston's NFL entrant, the New England Patriots. At 6-5, they currently lead the AFC East by two games. However, the AFC has been king in pro football for the last nine seasons. Their teams have compiled a 320-244 interleague record and have won six Super Bowls in this period. And, in case you can't hear them, the Indianapolis Colts are knocking on Door Number Seven.
Prior to the AFC's run, the NFC housed football's great powers. Kick-started one Sunday night in early 1982 by a kid named Joe Montana, stalwarts like the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins brought the NFC 15 Super Bowl victories in a span of 16 years.
Whenever I get to feeling overwhelmed by the stiffness of Boston's competition, I consider the plight of Philadelphia Eagles fans, whose teams won 10 or more games in five straight seasons from 1988-1992, yet managed only one NFC playoff victory against rigorous competition.
And nowhere do I feel more overwhelmed than in Major League Baseball.
Is there a fan among us who would trade spaces with a follower of the Boston Red Sox, a divisional neighbor of the New York Yankees for each year since the latter first moved to New York in 1903? Since that move, the Yankees have won nearly 40% of all American League pennants and are The Team of the last decade in Major League Baseball.
Notwithstanding their success, both the American and National Leagues have fared evenly until recent years. The AL has won seven of the 11 post-strike World Series, but the Yankees account for four of those. Most fans would agree they have been a one-team aberration whose exceptional achievements must be discounted when drawing conclusions between the two leagues. Indeed, in the 2,200 interleague games played since its introduction in 1997, the NL has won 1,104 to the AL's 1,096.
Upon closer look, however, a new trend is detectable. The AL's head-to-head winning percentage, which had been only .491 over the first seven seasons, has risen to .522 since. For what it's worth, the AL has also won eight All-Star Games over those nine seasons. The NL's best accomplishment was the tie it forged in the infamous 2002 contest.
Truthfully, most substantiation for asserting the dominance of the American League can been drawn from a small sample — namely, the last two seasons and eight World Series games — or is anecdotal or from the gut. The two leagues simply do not interact enough.
I think of promising or proven National League players like Jeff Suppan, Edgar Renteria, Javier Vazquez, and Kevin Brown that just cannot seem to perform to American League standards. Then, too, are mediocre American Leaguers like Curt Schilling and Chris Carpenter, who went on to make names for themselves in the National League.
There's also the lineup card. It requires a discriminating eye to find holes in the typical American League batting order while the National League offers many easy outs. This difference transcends the designated hitter; the National League simply has no bottom third at all, and Punch-and-Judy small-ballers often occupy the top two slots.
The real problem of course is this lack of interaction. Slightly more than 10% of the Major League Baseball schedule features interleague play, by far the lowest of the four major professional sports leagues. Add to that the different strike zones, umpiring crews, and DH, and you have two distinct games being played. With this in mind, National League teams need only compete with their own, and then take their chances in October.
So, what can be done to divert baseball from following the paths of its sister sports? Well, there are three models from which to choose.
We can take a page out of the National Hockey League. When the NHL first moved to a two division format in the 1967-68 season, East Division teams snapped up the first six Stanley Cups — Montreal four times, Boston twice. A year later, two teams were added, providing the NHL cover to make changes. East and West became Wales and Campbell. Boston and Montreal were separated, the former paired with California and the latter with Los Angeles. Everything was right again.
Okay, Red Sox, you and the Dodgers are now part of the Connie Mack Division. Yanks and Padres, go to the other corner and start up the Willie Mays Division.
Doesn't work? All right, let's keep the conferences static, but strip any significance to them like they do in NCAA basketball. We'll conclude the regular season, and then start up another. In this season, teams will be placed in regions rather than conferences, but you won't play for the region in which you live. It will be the Astros vs. Angels in the East Region at Camden Yards.
Very well then, how about the third alternative? We follow NCAA football's blueprint and skip the existing playoff structure altogether. The Baseball Writers' Association of America will follow their AP counterparts and rank teams all season. At the end, the two highest vote getters are in the World Series. Of course, George King will give the Yankees his first-place vote and leave the Red Sox off his top 10, so I'll be slighted in any event.
Maybe there is no solution.
Perhaps I need to accept the fact that my team's World Series appearances will be artificially low for eternity, stuck as we are in the same corral with a $200 million stallion.
Think of all the autumn chores I can accomplish, resigned that baseball's championship is really played much earlier in October during the ALCS, that the Autumn Classic is merely a goodwill tour to save the fledgling National League and give the 30 million people who attend its games some sense of purpose.
In this New Order, one thing is for sure: my yard will have a lot less New England foliage strewn across it than I see now.
Bob welcomes your feedback: mailto:email@example.com?subject=SFTL
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)
(Thanks for reading! Next issue will arrive on 01/01/06.)
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