With 9-7 Arizona almost pulling a miraculous upset victory over the 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers in this year’s Super Bowl and the wild-card New York Giants taking the NFL title last year over an undefeated Patriots team, a pattern of lesser teams having success over the dominant regular season squads is starting to emerge. It’s not relegated to the NFL either, this past decade has seen the wild-card teams have tremendous success in MLB (7 of the last 9 World Series had a wild-card participant) with the team having the best record rarely tasting champagne. This eradication of the dominant regular season teams in professional sports is bothersome and needs to stop. How can sports look at their business model with success when the best teams in expressing dexterity and fruitful chemistry come up short during playoff time? It’s beneficial for sports to have the occasional Cinderella story or an underdog getting hot at the right time but when it starts to become habitual, there is a problem.
Baseball would be easier to fix by extending the first round playoffs to a seven game series, while the NFL conundrum seems harder to solve. Already the conference teams with the two best records receive the much needed bye-week to lick their wounds, yet supposed weaker teams are still steamrolling their way through the home-field advantage corollary lately. Hockey is also having this issue with the President’s Trophy becoming a curse for teams that desire the Stanley Cup. Only four teams in the last ten years have carried the cup after accomplishing the best record in the regular season. Fans seem to love the underdog or the Cinderella team conquering over the mighty, so I don’t see the leagues tampering with what they perceive as great theatre. Nobody wants to harm coveted television ratings. Though, sports media outlets always discuss how dynasties create more long term success and better TV ratings for a league.
Whether fans want a dynasty or a constant Goliath being sleighed is a debatable. All I know is I hate seeing monumental regular seasons go unrewarded. It seems college sports stay consistent with regular season reaping postseason success. The NCAA Basketball Tournament may breed upsets but usually you have at least one or two #1 seeds making the Final Four and with last year even providing all of the top regional seeds for the mega-semifinal. So, maybe our professional leagues should take a closer look at college sports in finding a way to bring more value to a successful regular season record instead of a handicap. I’m not sure, all I know is I hate this trend.