Well, after nearly 4 months of yawns, lawns (preferred), and less-than-riveting entertainment award shows … WE ARE HERE! The endless speculation as to who the Jacksonville Jaguars might take at #1 (Hint: rhymes with “Brever Torrance”), who the New York Jets will replace Sam Darnold with, and all the rest will pretty much begin to be answered starting this evening from Cleveland, Ohio.
Let’s celebrate! Why? Because we now don’t have to watch all of that other crap they’ve been shoving through our remote during this Covid thing. We can finally see something LIVE! Pinch me!! With people around! Really?! You know what they say: “Beggars can’t be choosers.” We’ll take it. And, sorry for such a brief post, but I need to pick up my keg, wings, and the blocks of ice we’ll be sliding on in the backyard after my team picks … somebody who can ball!
We can finally pat ourselves on the back after taking more than a few big ones in the teeth throughout much of 2020. However, I promise not to mention the “C” word (“Covid”) again today. It will be the only time that word will have escaped mention in my A Closer Look… entries since last spring some time. Let’s get to one of the few “survivors in sports” from last year – the entire NFL. Most owners, coaches, players and others emerged with delays and confusion, but no actual cancellations and a full season’s completed regular schedule. Wow! That’s a mouthful!
Issue: Where is the upper brass of the league taking this thing?
As you can imagine, this is hardly the first time I’ve had a conversation about playoff eligibility, league alignment, and whether (or not) teams should even be allowed to appear in the playoffs with a losing record. I would like to get this on the record prior to this weekend’s bonanza of games meant to keep us all on our couches for its entirety. Q: During a lockdown, where the heck else are we going to go? Uh, is that Doordash?!
Anyway, I’d like to begin by arguing I believe the addition of a seventh spot in each conference is an okay thing. However, what I disagree with is when it is combined with the “divisional championship” system from the good old days. That’s when it becomes somewhat of a mess. We are literally going to bid adieu to some teams with 10-6 records – while enabling the NFC East winner to host a game while not even sniffing a winning record. No offense, but what did they do to deserve that?! To use the “S” word, it kind of “SUCKS!” And speaking of the NFC East (no offense Texas) but, the Dallas Cowboys should have been moved outta there a long time ago. We can’t have partial nostalgia and the rest disruption. Right?!
You know, I’m old enough to remember when the Seattle Seahawks played in the AFC West. So, for NFL “purists” who choose to argue that Dallas, Philly, the football Giants, and yes, the newly titled Washington Football Team should remain in close divisional proximity, I say, POPPYCOCK! If the league is going to make radical changes to its playoff schedule – and, I hear game #17 is coming soon to your football platter, we should also become comfortable with other logical changes likewise.
Since I know you’re holding your breath for my suggestions (kidding), I recommend something like: BLOW UP the divisions completely and instead have each conference award 8 (yes, 8! Or, 9!) playoff spots to the best records in each conference. That gives half the teams in the league the opportunity to play in the postseason. And it sets the table for plenty of revenue raising options for the upper brass in NYC and elsewhere. Let’s face it, I would be embarrassed to hang a divisional championship banner in my mancave on the heels of a 5-11 season (or 7-9). Wouldn’t YOU?! C’MON MAN!
Oh, and one other thing: let’s give the top two teams BYES again! I think it’s shameful to overlook a 14-2 or 13-3 team just because the #1 team is 15-1. Again, it’s great to incentivize the lower half of playoff contention, but let’s not cheat the consistent, rightful earners of the best records in the game while we do it, okay?!
It’s not much, but it’s a start. Let’s keep the ball rolling with some debate…
Topic: Why do we seem to care more today about cheating in sports?
I know a little bit about professional sports. In fact, without getting too far into the weeds, let’s just say I practically grew up in professional locker rooms, dugouts, and on and off fields, diamonds, and courts. However, since this op-ed is about something else and notabout me, let’s just dive right in and get to the bottom of the matter.
Recently, we have been inundated (much more so than usual) with television/ radio shows, and online debates focusing on the issue of “cheating in professional sports.” In them, pundits rave and rage about how horrible it is that the Houston Astros (allegedly) stole signs in order to win a World Series Championship in 2017. They go on to argue that these same Astros (allegedly) continued to cheat in subsequent years – and perhaps, even as recently as just last year.