Friday, November 4, 2011

Champion Shmampion

I’ve decided that the term “best” needs to be taken more seriously, and I hope to have a new site up soon, dedicated to determining the best in all sorts of categories. But first, I need to debunk the idea of the “champion.”
Other than sports like boxing and UFC, championships are complete crap. Super Bowl, World Series, March Madness or the NBA Playoffs don’t actually determine which team is the best team. They generate mountains of money and they’re great fun, but they’re also a lie. They can give us great drama, but they’re more of a yearend celebration than anything else. That’s not to say the “champions” weren’t the best teams in their respective sports, they just weren’t the best because they won the championship.
The evidence is clear, and it’s plentiful, and you don’t have to look far. There’s the “World Champion” St. Louis Cardinals, who just won the World Series a week or so ago. And then this weekend, there’s an epic match up in college football between the top two ranked teams, Alabama and LSU.
The Cardinals played well most of the year, in spite of the fact that they lost their second best pitcher before the season even began. They played very well down the stretch, but needed the Atlanta Braves to have a historic collapse (which thrills me to no end) just to make the playoffs. Three teams in the National League alone won more games during the regular season than the Cardinals, and seven teams total. But the Cardinals played their best ball when it counted, I just don’t know what it counted for exactly. Glory, pride, bragging rights and some cash is all I can figure.
Now looking forward to tomorrow’s game between the top two ranked teams in college football, Alabama and LSU, we see a game with “National Championship implications.” That’s what everyone keeps saying. But if these are the two best teams, and we see one team beat the other, we know right then which team is the better team. Therefore, we know which the best team in the country is. We don’t need to wait for a bowl game in early January to decide this. Although we’re told we do, and in the end, the season may end with neither team being the champion.
It just makes no sense. I can’t think of another line of work, which is what this is, where the best is determined by a yearend competition. We won’t decide that the iPhone was the best phone of the year based on how well it does against HTC in December. The best sales person at my company is the best because they do the best all year long. Looking for the best surgeon? Well you look at his/her complete body of work, not just some arbitrary surgeries.
These championships impact more than just deciding the best team of each season. Not that it actually matters, but sport fans love to debate the best in every sport. Hell, we’ll argue the best at each position in each sport. Michael Jordan supporters often refer to his six rings, as evidence of his greatness. While Kobe Bryant is one ring behind him, with his fans believing he’ll equal Jordan’s greatness with one more title, and pass it with two. What? That’s ridiculous. Michael Jordan won his sixth ring on June 14, 1998. He wasn’t a better player that day than he was on June 13th. Yet somehow, we’re supposed to believe he was.
I understand, and appreciate, that because those games “mean” more, that those games are played at a higher intensity. Hell, I’ve witnessed it countless times. So Jordan is perceived as a guy with ice in his veins, because he wasn’t fazed by the situation. But the fact is, his Bulls were the best teams those seasons, the post-season wasn’t necessary to decide that. For crying out loud, it’s called the “post-season.” You know, as in, after the season
Want more proof? This one pains me, but the 2007 New England Patriots didn’t win the championship that year. They went 16-0, the first NFL team ever to do, and they completely dominated their opponents all season long. They scored more than twice as many points as they allowed. Then they played my Giants in the Super Bowl, a team that only outscored their opponents by 22 points for the entire season. A nice 10-6 team that made the playoffs as a wildcard. Then a completely fluke play, which included Eli Manning actually moving his feet and the most insane catch ever, and next thing we know, the Giants are “World Champions.” You’ll never find anyone argue that the Giants were the best team that year, but that’s how the record books remember them. And my teams have been on the flip side of that coin, as MU fans like to remind us. There have been multiple seasons where Kansas was arguably the best team in the land, only they choked in the first round of the NCAA tournament against lesser schools.
In boxing, if you beat the champ, you are the champ. Although you still might not be the best, you at least take the title, very literally, from the previous champ. There is no fight at the end of the year, or round robin tournament.
In the meantime, I think I'll declare myself the World Champion of Bloggers. Not bad for my first post in months, right?

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