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Monday, January 31, 2022

Signifying Nothing


How ABOUT those NFL playoffs???

Two weekends in a row of scintillating football, all decided in the last couple minutes or even seconds of play. You can't quibble: pro football puts on a helluva show...much more so than a certain other, venerable sport I could name.  

So the Super Bowl will be those upstart, Cincinnati Bengals, led by the great Joe Burrow, against the surprising Los Angeles Rams. Personally, I gotta pull for Cincinnati (and hey, for no dollars in the championship round, can anyone tell me the Ohio connection between these two teams?).

Well, hey, what's not to love? Didn't see these two teams coming, did we?

Which is...sort of the problem. 

Hate to be a buzzkill here (actually, as I'm sure most of you have cottoned to, I LOVE being a buzzkill), but winning America's national holiday game will mean exactly what?

Does anyone REALLY think these are the two best teams in pro football?

The NFL has already devalued their champions by extending the league's regular season to an outrageous 17 games. Why, just in the lifetimes of most of us on this blog, the NFL's regular season was still 12 games, with 1 playoff contest. Not long before that, as late as 1945, teams played only 10 games.

This is as if MLB had extended the regular season to about 215—maybe even 255—games, plus more playoff rounds, with all the attendant injuries and exhaustion that would entail.  

Let's face it, your average NFL champion now is really just the last team standing—or at best, just the one that got hot at the right time.  How much does it even mean to win it all?

MLB got headed down this same road to nothingness when it started including "wild card" teams. For the first time, you could win the World Series without finishing first, even in some risky-dink division—a terrible travesty, and something that devalued one of the supreme joys and virtues of baseball, the Long Season.

Now, in the dawdling negotiations between millionaires and billionaires, it is reported that MLB is pressing for seven—count 'em, 7!—teams in each league's playoffs, just like the NFL it so dearly loves to imitate. 

In other words, about half the teams in baseball would have a shot at the brass ring. Think of what that means.

In 1968, your New York Yankees set the all-time, post-1900 record for lowest batting average by a major-league team, at .214.  

BUT...the Yanks actually finished in the first division of the 10-team American League, with a winning record. This was mostly because of its terrific starting pitching, headed by Mel Stottlemyre, Fritz Peterson, and this guy here, Stan Bahnsen, rookie of the year with 17 wins and a 2.06 ERA.

Under the rules MLB would like to see implemented, the equivalent of those Yankees would be in the playoffs. And with that pitching, they would actually have a chance, despite finishing 20 games behind the eventual world champion, Detroit Tigers.

(True fact: that Yankees team actually swept the Bengals in four, late-August games at Yankee Stadium, with Bahnsen winning a 2-1 game and Stottlemyre beating 31-game winner Denny McLain by the same score.)

Would I have loved that as a Yankees fan? Of course I would! 

And when it comes to what big-leagues sports really cares about, it would have made a great "story"—Mickey Mantle, in his last year, getting one more ring!—and a lot of long-shot betting opportunities. Hurrah.

But where would have been the reward for sustained excellence? Where would the real accomplishment have been?

What would it have been, but the sound and the fury, signifying nothing?


TheWinWarblist said...

Would ya look at the size of his head? El Melon Gordo!

JM said...

It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of two mockeries of a sham. Baseball used to be so much better. What's the point of having such a long season now except for milking ticket sales and TV revenue?

Oh. Wait.

ranger_lp said...

With the size of his head, was he on the juice like Bonds?

TheWinWarblist said...

Ranger, that giant coconut was pure Yankee talent. And a handful of greenies on game days.

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cabish47 said...

The Rams were once the Cleveland Rams.

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HoraceClarke66 said...

You are correct, cabish47! And...they moved to LA because a new team was setting up in Cleveland in 1946, in the new All-American Football Conference (AAFC).

That team was the eponymous Cleveland Browns, under local legend, Paul Brown. Who would go on to be the first coach/GM of the Cincinnati Bengals.

MORE than coincidence???