I am from Venus; extended playoff proponents are from Mars.

Brilliant observation from Joe Posnanski today, in his post comparing the methods of determining champions by Major League Baseball and Premier League soccer:

… Maybe we as Americans — in large numbers — don’t watch sports to know “who is the best team.” Maybe we watch sports for the chance of surprise, for the potential drama, for reliable thrills. Over time, four playoff teams in baseball became eight. And this year, eight playoff teams become 10 with the addition of the second wildcard.

I’m not saying this is wrong … I don’t think it’s wrong. I think this is unquestionably what most people in America want. Still, there’s no question that the second wildcard — where now TWO teams that do not win their division are included in the playoffs — would be utterly antithetical to the way people in England watch sport. In England, they stick to their playoff-less system no matter how many boring championship endings they get. Here in America, we saw a flaw in our playoff system — a complicated flaw that seemed to cut the motivation for teams to win as many games as they could — and we have tried to fix it by adding more playoffs.

Seriously, doesn’t that get to the heart of the playoff debate for college football?  On average, there aren’t that many schools that end the regular season with legitimate national title claims.  Yet the next round of expansion, should it happen, will commit college football to a postseason format containing more teams than would ordinarily meet that standard.  If you’re a “settle the best team on the field” kind of person, then a larger field detracts from your goal.  But if you’re a surprise/drama advocate – go, Cindy, go! – then expansion to eight schools or more is hardly a bug.

I get it.  I don’t think bracket junkies are wrong.  I simply disagree with their priorities.  I’d just like to have the same courtesies extended in my direction sometimes.

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24 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

24 responses to “I am from Venus; extended playoff proponents are from Mars.

  1. MLB actually improved the wild card this year though. The two wild cards in each league play a play-in game. The winner advances to the NLDS. Basically, they’ve added more incentive to win your division, since you avoid the play-in that way.

    • Um… couldn’t you fix the problem by eliminating wild cards altogether?

      Now I’m not suggesting that’s a realistic option. Just that if baseball was in a fix, it was one of baseball’s making.

    • The MLB wild card is a perfect example of our need for “potential drama and reliable thrills”. Its actually a cheap way of attaining this thrill. Give two more teams a punchers chance after 160+ games in one dramatic game.

      I don’t like the 5 game format either, since this narrows the need to have a very deep team (what is required to make it to the playoffs over the course of a season), to winning a series with two dominant pitchers and a handfull of other players. Its essentially a crap shoot.

      Yes, I’m a grumpy Braves fan ;)

    • TomReagan

      Another way of looking at the ‘fix’ is it makes it guarantees that a team with the 5th worst, maybe even worse than that, record in the league is allowed into a tournament that can be a crap shoot. Teams that do well over a 162 game season tend to have very deep starting pitching, which isn’t nearly as important in baseball’s postseason. The second wildcard has made it easier for the team with 2 aces to slip in and then win the championship.

  2. Anonymous

    Today, college football’s regular season games are by far the most important of any sport in America. I don’t like seeing an 7-7 Giants team win the Superbowl; it makes the early part of the regular season worthless.

  3. DawgPhan

    While most pro-playoff people would tell you they are against partipation awards, the playoff is just that…keep expanding it until my team is never left out…even if they get crushed in the first round, at least I got to watch playoffs every year.

    • Jim Boeheim approves this message. Don’t forget coaches that can pitch to their employers that they made the watered-down tournament the year before and that’s why they should still keep their job.

  4. The intersection of college football with European soccer has been one of the more enjoyable developments of the past few years – at least for me.

    Soccer fans are spoiled in terms of what Americans consider the postseason in that they get the best of both worlds – a settle-it-on-the-field league title PLUS any number of tournaments from the league level on up to the Euros and World Cup that give you the brackets.

    So it’s not entirely honest or correct for the author to say that “Still, there’s no question that the second wildcard — where now TWO teams that do not win their division are included in the playoffs — would be utterly antithetical to the way people in England watch sport.” That’s true for the league. But the top four teams in England qualify for the European championship.

    It’s important and a great honor to win the league title, but there are many teams content to play for fourth place and the prestige of qualifying for the Euros. In fact, for many mid-level clubs without the resources to compete for the top players that would give them a realistic run at the league title, playing for a third or fourth place finish could be said, depending on the year, to be a bigger goal than trying to win the league. Sound familiar?

  5. Mayor of Dawgtown

    Bracket junkies are wrong–period.

  6. Macallanlover

    I can live under that umbrella of wanting more exciting, quality match-ups since the schedule has been dumbed down to the point there simply isn’t enough intersectional games to know how teams compare. Why guess? Send representatives and let’s see how they stack up.

    CFB fans do want to see this, and it will be fun. If we ever get to four 16 team Super Conferences, perhaps the 4 team playoff will be the answer, as for now, they are a round short of covering the bases needed. Four is better than two under this configuration, but eight is perfect. If we are going to fix the problem, let’s do the full job.

    In the meantime, if I have to be painted as just a fun loving fan searching for more CFB games, so be it. It is better than playing a season and having decided nothing but conference champions. No system will determine the best team, but let’s at least have a champion that earns a title since so many want to award it.

    Comparing CFB to other playoffs is a waste of time. What is being proposed with 4 or 8 teams is not like MLB, the NFL, NCAA BAsketball, European Soccer, or any of the others. Limited number of interactive games relative to the size of the field, and an exclusive number of spots in the playoffs relative to the others, how is that similar?

    • FisheriesDawg

      Has there ever been a college football season where you could have claimed with a straight face that more than four teams “might” be the best team in the country?

      And, fwiw, you can’t give credit to really good teams that lost because of injury or got hot late. That doesn’t fly with me. I hate seeing teams be mediocre all season and then get hot late and win a championship.

      • Macallanlover

        Only a handful, but it isn’t about what I think. It is about inclusion. When you have 120 teams scatter over all geographies and 5-6 major conferences, there is no way to ignore areas and say you do not belong, or your champion is not worthy. You can have an opinion, but you can’t say the Big 12 champ, or the PAC 12 champ shouldn’t get a spot. The Auburn 2004 slight is an example of how that feels. There simply isn’t enough interaction of games to really know. The regular season is about who wins their conference, the post season should be about who earns the title of national champion, not who is voted in.

        And the biggest issue of all, no one can ever say who was “the best”, just who is the champion. The current system, the past system, and any future system will not identify who is “the best”. It all depends who plays whom, with what players, on what Saturday, and who executes that particular day. Last year, most on here feel they had the best two teams in the BCS game, after is was over, who was the best? The one who won on the road, or the one who won the neutral site game? They were 1-1 head to head, what was decided? LSU would get my vote because they were the SEC Champs. I don’t know if Bama would have beaten Oregon after watching Ga Southern put 300+ rushing on them. I have no idea who was the best last year, nor do I know who was in 2007, 0r 2003, etc., etc.

        • FisheriesDawg

          So there’s no way of knowing that the SEC champ is better than the Sun Belt champ if they don’t play each other during the season?

          Just because a title game/playoff doesn’t guarantee that the “best” team will win, in my opinion, the goal should still be to crown the best team as the champion. Giving a bunch of teams second and third and fourth chances after failure makes this far less likely

          To me, and Auburn 2004 every once in a blue moon is probably worth it to prevent a 2007 New York Giants. With the new four-team playoff, we’ll probably get an Auburn once every 50 years or so. With an eight-plus team playoff, I’ll bet we get a “national champion” with three losses at least once a decade.

          • Macallanlover

            Sorry, I missed this reply. I think you know I am not proposing an eight team playoff because there are legit concerns about the SunBelt conference winner. Power six conference champs, two wild cards to balance so a Top 5 team isn’t left out (like last year) and so we don’t have byes. I would give you major, major odds that a 3 loss would never win a title every decade, probably not a century. To compare the NFL playoff to one having 6% (8 of 120) of the teams included is getting pretty silly to me. I fully understand other opinion, but keep the emotion and hyperbole out of the discussion and it is better.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Actually Mac, a 4 super conference of 16 teams scenario would have by it’s very existence an 8 team playoff. Each super conference would have 2 divisions. The champions of each division would play each other for the conference championship (a total of 8 teams). That would be the first round of the playoffs and it would go on from there. The 4 conference champs play, then the 2 winners play for the National Championship. This would not be liked by some of us who want the best teams on the field (Bama would have missed out last season under this system) but it is also so attractive that I, for one, would willingly accept it—as long as there is no expansion to 16, then 32, then 64 etc.

  7. The Bruce

    All I have to say to any teams left out of the playoff was already said by the great Iceman: “The plaque for the alternates is down in the ladies’ room.”

  8. Cojones

    Pucker up, Venus, it’s better before your slopes slip.

  9. Monday Night Frotteur

    1) European football has a massive playoff system (Champions League, Europa League).

    2) College football teams play such short and differing schedules that there simply isn’t a legitimate way to determine who the “best team” is, if such a thing really exists (is the team with the best resume the best team? the team with the best performance (not the same as resume)? What is the “best team?”)

  10. Scorpio Jones, III

    All this gentlemanly (an assumption, I know) is vaguely entertaining, but the only thing I give a left-threaded damn about is seeing some Dawg holding that glass football aloft in some stadium, somewhere.

    No matter how the selections are made for no matter how many teams, a Dawg holding a glass football at the end of the hunt is the only thing that matters, but hey YMMV.

    • Scorpio Jones, III

      oops….”gentlemanly discourse”….flashed on John Jenkins holding the football, got really distracted.

  11. Claw

    MLB does a terrible job of crowning a champion, but the sport of baseball is fundamentally different from football. There really is no comparison, baseball teams can get hot for a month and beat teams that they shouldn’t. That doesn’t generally happen in football. You may reference the NFL, were the Giants the best team in the NFL last year? Probably not, but I would also argue that College Football is fundamentally different from the NFL because of the lack of parity in college. An 8 team playoff would provide a pedestal for undefeated, one, and possibly two loss teams to really prove themselves in games that matter. They already play each other in bowl games anyway, it might as well mean something. Do you really think Bama would have lost to Utah ion ’08 if that game had any meaning?