October surprise, surprise


I spent the evening tonight having dinner with two Korean friends.  I returned home not long ago, so my mind is not very sharp.  It’s been a long day for me.  Long days can be mindnumbing, so today I’ll write about something other than recalling our Pusan trip.  I’ll write about that tomorrow night.  My wife also made it home late tonight after her first full day of work.  She said that she enjoyed it, although she was in a manager’s meeting until 7 p.m.  Welcome to working long hours in Korea!  Fortunately, our nanny stayed late until we came home.  My son was very happy to see me, and he shared his joy by asking me to read bedtime stories to him.  We walked through two "Danny and the Dinosaur" children’s stories.
 
Tonight sports is on my mind.  The Major League Baseball regular season ended mercifully this week.  I am so looking forward to watching the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, and the "Whatever City Name They Go by this Year" Angels in the playoffs yet again.  Snore.  Wake me up when the World Series is over.  On August 24, I analyzed why the primary problem with Major League Baseball is its predictability.  While it is nice to see the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres in the playoffs for a change, it is far too routine to see the usual suspects back in the Fall Classic.  The eight teams in this year’s playoffs have been to the playoffs 27 times since the 2000 season, including six appearances each for the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves.  Really, I might as well order ESPN‘s 2004 MLB Playoff Magic and watch it in lieu of the 2005 playoffs, since there really is really going to be very little difference in the outcome this year.  Frankly, nothing this year could top watching the Red Sox beat the Yankees and going on to win their first Series in 88 years.  Barring a miracle, it’s highly likely that the Yankees, Angels, Red Sox, Cardinals, or Braves will be back in the World Series again this year, with the Yankees and the Cardinals the odds-on favorites.  No disrespect meant to Astros, White Sox, or Padres fans, but the safe bet (as usual) would be on those five teams.
 
I personally prefer baseball over other major sports, but I prefer the National Football League’s organization over that of Major League Baseball.  The NFL has had many football dynasties, including the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, and New England Patriots.  Nevertheless, it’s league has unparalleled parity.  The legendary Green Bay Packers are winless in four tries under veteran Quarterback Brett Favre.  The "hapless" Cincinnati Bengals are 4-0 this season.  The Indianapolis Colts in the AFC and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC are looking tough to beat, but their Superbowl success is hardly assured.  The New Orleans Saints are looking good, in spite of playing their "home" games in San Antonio.  I’m also impressed that last Sunday the league played its first regular season game outside the U.S. in Mexico City, Mexico, where the Arizona Cardinals beat the San Francisco 49ers.  That’s what I call "thinking outside the box."
 
Why is American pro football so much more successful than Major League Baseball at fostering team parity?  The salary cap is partly responsible.  A shorter season (16 games to MLB’s 172-game schedule) is another reason, as is the fact that football playoff games are single events, while MLB playoff games are in series.  A series gives teams numerous opportunities for comebacks, while single games can be won or lost over a lucky (or unlucky) break.  I also believe that NFL team owners are generally more engaged than their MLB counterparts in team development and promotion.  The NFL Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, runs a much better operation than MLB Commish Bud Selig does.  Player movement is another factor.  In baseball, teams such as the Yankees lock up the best players, keep them until they no longer need them, and then discard them to other teams.  In football, players are much more readily traded between teams.  For example, the Minnesota Vikings made a gusty move in sending one of the league’s premier wide receivers, Randy Moss, to the Oakland Raiders, for the sake of team harmony.  Football also typically drafts older players.  College football serves as an incubator for promising players, and talented players often graduate from college directly to the NFL.  In baseball, young players in high school often bypass college and head straight to the baseball farm system, often being rushed up to the big leagues prematurely.  A 22-year college graduate football player is typically more physically and emotionally ready to turn pro than a 16-year rookie baseball prospect.  Finally, I appreciate that the NFL’s successful teams are scattered throughout the U.S. in many markets, rather than concentrated in big cities.  I respect a league committed to keeping a team in a city as small as Green Bay, Wisconsin when it can’t field a team in Los Angeles.  There are other reasons why the NFL’s management outclasses Major League Baseball’s, but these are the primary ones that come to mind.
 
Will I watch this year’s World Series?  Oh, probably not.  Will I watch the Superbowl.  You bet.
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