Tuesday, November 4, 2014

better team

On Sunday, after the Denver Broncos were shellacked 43-21 by the New England Patriots, a safety for the Broncos-TJ Ward-- made the following remark.  "We're still the best team" he said.

Well, er, Mr. Ward, you mean the "better" team.  Not sure how religiously you attended English classes at the University of Oregon, but when comparing two entities the word is better not best.  You only use best when comparing more than two.

Of course, that is a minor point.

However, there is a major point. And it is ignored by sport analysts on a regular basis.

The major point is that there is only one way to determine who is better than another in a sport contest.  And that mechanism has no degree of subjectivity.

The better team in a contest is the team that wins.  That is how "better" is defined in sports.

If some media wizard opines that, say, the Baltimore Orioles are actually the best team in baseball, or that they are better than the Kansas City Royals--just change the station.  The Orioles lost in the playoffs. The Royals advanced to the World Series. The Giants are the best team in baseball because they won the World Series.

As anyone who has followed my blogs would know, I find decisions made by experts to determine champions to be an abomination. This is why for years I argued that college football division I champions are illusory.  Until this year, a committee or a computer made the determination of who was the national champion in NCAA division I or who was invited to compete for the national championship. The situation is better this year with a playoff system in place that will add credibility to what had been a sham of a national champion.

Way back before I rooted for the Boston Celtics, during the years when the Celtics would annually beat the Lakers in the 50s and 60s, pundits would whine that the Celtics were not the best team.  Bill Russell the center for those teams in both senses of the word "center" would hear such remarks and quip, "We laughed all the way to the bank."  Of course, the Celtics were better than the Lakers when they defeated the Lakers.--regardless of how great Jerry West and Elgin Baylor played.

In sport, head to head is where it is at.  The better team is the team who, after the game or series is over, is victorious.  One could make the case that the 1984-85 Villanova Wildcats basketball team did not have nearly the talent of the Georgetown Hoyas.   But in the championship game that season Villanova won. This made them the better team.  In fact, this made them the best team in all of NCAA basketball regardless of any other factor. That they "should" have lost, had a bad record during the year, shot an incredible and atypically high percentage in the championship game--is irrelevant.

Last year in the AFC championship game, the Broncos defeated the Patriots. The Patriots did not have Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots' best defender was knocked out of the game in the first half by a questionable block, and Peyton Manning played like some sort of superhuman being.  All this does not undermine the reality that last year the better team between the Broncos and the Patriots, was the Broncos.

After Sunday's game TJ Ward was asked how come the Broncos lost. He commented that the wind was a factor.  He said, he's "not really a wind person."  Well Mr. Ward my first suggestion is that you consider Scrabble.  My second suggestion is that athletes who opine that they are better than another after a loss, might save the wind they expend with such an utterance.

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