Thursday, October 1, 2009

36 Questions: Why is a season defined by a championship?

Why does one game, or one series, have the ability to negate or define an entire season? Why do sports leagues even play a regular season if the essence of the year can be defined by a one-month playoff? Especially, when the playoff structure, as I’ve mentioned before, makes the playoffs a much different animal than the regular season. Why not just start in May with a 30-team bracket, leading up to a championship? If that’s all it comes down to, make it really come down to it. Every team would start out even, with a seven game series against another random team. Last team standing wins. After all, the playoffs don’t reward regular season anyway. Let’s see how Kansas City would do in the playoffs of they could throw Grienke three times a series. Would they be able to beat many of the current playoff teams? I bet they could. So, why can’t we hail them as having a great season? If great regular seasons can be thrown out by a postseason loss, shouldn’t poor regular seasons be thrown out with playoff wins?

This came up recently with the Patriots. Sure, it’s another sport, but it’s an easier illustration. You may recall that the 2007 Patriots had an undefeated regular season, but lost the Super Bowl. Suddenly, the greatest team ever, was reduced to just another team with a decent regular season. But, explore it a little more. The Pats won 18 games, the most ever, and finished 18-1. The 1985 Chicago Bears also finished the season 18-1. They are considered one of the greatest teams ever, if not the greatest. The difference between the two? The Bears loss came in the regular season, while the Pat’s came at the end. That’s the difference? The timing of the loss? In 1985, the Bears loss came to Miami. The Bears didn’t face Miami again in the playoffs. So, they finished the season without ever having beaten the Dolphins. In the Pats case, they lost to the Giants. The difference? They had already beaten the Giants a few weeks earlier. Clearly, they were capable of beating NY. We’ll never know if Chicago was capable of beating Miami. So, if the Pats had lost the 16th game of the season, but won the 19th instead of the other way around, they’d be one of the greatest teams of all time? How bizarre is that?

Sure, the goal of every team, in every season, is to with the championship. But should it really define the greatness of a team? If the Yankees win 120 regular season games, but lose the ALCS because Beckett and Lester shut them out twice each, does that mean the season was a bad one? Why? Doesn’t it just mean the Sox have two better pitchers? When the Cardinals won the World Series after barely making the playoffs, does that really mean they had the best season? The best results, sure. But the best season? I’ve heard Derek Jeter say that the best teams make the playoffs, but the hottest teams win the playoffs. I know he was just using it as an excuse as to why he didn’t win. But, if that’s true, should his rings be held in the same regard?

Shouldn’t the best seasons belong to the best teams…not the hottest?

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