Tipping Pitches: Sports: Painful Loss a Reminder of why NFL Superior


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sports: Painful Loss a Reminder of why NFL Superior

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As a Packers fan, today's loss against Brett Favre and the Vikings was a painful, painful few hours.  I'm not going to go into the details of the game or the emotions associated with it right now.  Still too fresh, and these wounds need to heal.

But the game, Fox's opening act for Game 3 of the World Series later in the evening, provided some clarity.  It was a game like the Packers-Vikings extravaganza that reminds me why the NFL is superior to Major League Baseball.

Now don't get this twisted.  I'm a baseball man.  I prefer baseball as a sport.  And I prefer the history of the game to that of football.

But the NFL, as a league, is light years better.  Why?  Wins and losses are decided on the field.

Losses hurt, but I can accept losses as a Packers fan.  When the Packers (or any team loses), someone needs to be blamed.  Finger pointing, as a fan of an NFL team, is limited to the following:
  • Blame the players.
  • Blame the coaches/play calling.
  • Blame ownership/general manager for poor players and/or product.
  • Blame officiating.
  • Blame injuries.
  • Blame luck.
That's about it.  And if a team is regularly not competitive, you can really only blame the ownership and general manager for not acquiring productive players.  You can blame the officiating and bad luck for a game.  You can blame the players, coaches and injuries for a season.  But after that, success falls squarely on ownership.

Watching the Packers lose today, blame can certainly be spread around.
  • Blame Mike McCarthy and his play calling in the first half.
  • Blame the offense as a whole for getting 47 yards of offense in the first half.
  • Blame Aaron Rodgers for being tentative and holding the ball too long.
  • Blame the offensive line for not giving Rodgers any time.
  • Blame Dom Capers for not blitzing Favre.
  • Blame the defense overall for not getting any pressure on Favre and allowing 38 points.
  • Blame the players for stupid penalties.
  • Blame special teams for allowing big returns and missing a field goal.
  • Blame Ted Thompson for not finding enough good offensive linemen.
You'll even hear fans blaming Thompson for this Favre thing.  That he should have held onto Favre.  I disagree, but it's a decision for which he can be held accountable.

But economics?  The smallest market in all of the NFL, and it's never part of the discussion.

How often do you hear fans talking about big market vs. small market in the NFL?  How often is that, or  economics, used as an excuse?

I'll answer that for you.  Never.

That's why the NFL is great.  Anyone can win.  But not everyone does.  Every team plays by the same rules.  But it is the responsibility of each organization to put the proper pieces in place to succeed.

Those who succeed earn it.

Major League Baseball?  Completely different.  Finger pointing, as a fan of a baseball team, goes like this:
  • Blame the players.
  • Blame the manager.
  • Blame ownership/general manager for poor players and/or product.
  • Blame umpires.
  • Blame injuries.
  • Blame luck.
  • Blame economics.
  • Other teams on steroids.
Ok, I added the last one for fun.  But, while there is really only one new addition to this list, it's ultimately the most important.

If you are a fan of a small market baseball team, you can blame the players.  But how much blame do they really deserve?  Your team can't afford superior players.  How much should you expect of those players?

You can blame the manager to a point.  The manager needs to be competent (see Ned Yost).  But how much blame can you give a manager who doesn't have players?

How can you blame ownership of a small market team for not signing a big contract player?  Or fielding a team that doesn't make the playoffs when the team's payroll is one half or one fourth of that of the Yankees?

You certainly can blame injuries, but ultimately the reason you can comes back to economics.  An injury to the star player of a small market team is usually too much to overcome.  If the Yankees sustain a major injury?  Big deal.  They'll acquire someone else.

In baseball, it all comes back to economics.  The Mets have the second highest payroll, but they were terrible.  Blame the ownership.

The Yankees had the highest payroll in 2008 and didn't make the playoffs. Clearly, a colossal failure by ownership.

Ownership, managers and players of the Brewers need to take on some blame for not finishing above .500 this season, but do heads really need to roll?  They weren't going to sign CC Sabathia.  Your options for replacing such a player (and Ben Sheets) are seriously limited.

Big market fans roll their eyes when fans of small market teams blame economics, but it's something that doesn't need to be discussed.  Simply even the playing field so that we can blame the players, coaches and ownership.

Is it really that hard?  Do we need to continue to accept things the way they are?

We can.  And if we do, the NFL will continue to reign supreme.  The best sporting event is won or lost on the field.  MLB has become an on-the-field event with extenuating circumstances.

I am actually in the process of completing some research that compares the "competitive balance" of Major League Baseball, National Football League and National Basketball Association.  This data isn't intended to prove the horror of baseball's economics.  As the Mets show, money guarantees nothing.

But it is a study that I feel needs to be done to fully understand the competitive landscape.  More to come.


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