Welcome, everyone, to BOUTS OF STUPIDITY.
Here's how it works: Each fight will pit two "sports things" against one another that we hold to be stupid. These could be rules, regulations, institutions, narratives we find stupid ... basically, anything outside of individual persons, because we're not that mean. Two of your friends from SB Nation will provide an argument for their fighter, we put it to the vote, and y'all decide who wins the belt.
Now obviously, something like "The BCS" would absolutely destroy something like "the wave." As such, we have divided our stupid sports things into three weight classes:
LIGHTWEIGHT. Stupid things that are just sort of a matter of taste. They don't ruin anything, but they're annoying. Possible examples: doing "the wave" at baseball games, halftime coach interviews.
MIDDLEWEIGHT. Stupid things that actually matter, or are at least supposed to matter. Possible examples: the NBA's Most Improved Player award, the fact that there isn't going to be an MLB game on the Xbox 360 this year.
HEAVYWEIGHT. World-class, top-rank stupid. It's capable of affecting the integrity or fairness of a sport, and/or our enjoyment of it, to a significant degree. Possible example: the BCS system.
So! Let's get to it.
19th JUNE 2012
HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT OF STUPIDITY
THE NFL'S OVERTIME FORMAT
Coach: Jon Bois
WORLD SERIES HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE RULES
Coach: Matt Ufford
We present our arguments below. At the end, please cast your vote for which is more stupid. The winner will become the first-ever holder of the WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT STUPID BELT.
THE NFL'S OVERTIME FORMAT
by Jon Bois
OK, here's an overtime format the NFL can have for free. If the game is tied at the end of regulation, a representative is selected for each team. These players have a wheelbarrow's worth of VHS tapes strapped to their persons, each of which is either Home Alone or Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
Upon being fitted with these crude, unwieldy suits, these two men are lowered into a pit. The pit is then subsequently filled 30 feet deep with VHS copies of knockoffs of the Home Alone series. Baby's Day Out. 3 Ninjas. 3 Ninjas Kick Back. Dennis the Menace. Dunston Checks In. Baby Geniuses. All that shit. At the blow of a whistle, the two players have to crawl their way to the top. The first player to reach the surface and shout, "A PLAIN CHEESE PIZZA, JUST FOR ME," wins the game for his team.
Welp, there go the stupidest 150 words I have ever typed. But you know what? It's a far more judicious overtime format than the one the NFL stubbornly clings to. The sudden-death system shows far more concern with "picking a winner" than with "picking a winner fairly." Nearly half of all overtimes are decided without the other team even receiving possession of the ball.
I've whined about this several times, most recently last November. It's not that there aren't a number of more just overtime formats to choose from, and that's the part of this that's really stupid: 15 years after NCAA football adopted the Kansas playoff, the NFL fails, year in and year out, to overhaul a ludicrous set of rules.
I mean, Major League Baseball teams play 162 games. If they used an unjust extra innings format, it would be a bummer, but not as big of a deal because an 86-76 record probably gets you about as far as an 87-75 record does. Regardless, they still go as far as they have to in order to ensure that each game is decided properly. Even if it means playing three extra hours, depleting their bullpen, and exhausting everyone involved.
And yet it's the NFL, in which the difference between a 10-6 record and a 9-7 record is everything, that slacks on the matter. Actually, "slacking" isn't the word, because over the last couple years, they have made tweaks: First they declared that in postseason overtime, a team couldn't win by kicking a field goal on its first possession, then they extended this to the regular season.
So they're just slowly chipping away at their own stupid format that they could do away with entirely whenever they felt like it. It's like the OT format is bumbling its way through the NFL's plush, Hughesian suburban Chicago home, and the NFL is just slowing it down by gluing chicken feathers to its face and shit. Except the NFL actually can call the cops from its tree house.
Come on, NFL, you're smart people. But when smart people make stupid decisions, it adds a fresh new dimension of stupid.
WORLD SERIES HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE RULES
by Matt Ufford
All-star games are exhibitions; they serve no purpose beyond a diversion to bored sports fans. The Pro Bowl is a Hawaiian vacation for the NFL's best. The NBA All-Star Game is a defense-free pick-up game to cap off a weekend of parties. The NHL All-Star Game is just a gig on Nickelback's winter tour.
So why in the name of Bart Giamatti does the MLB All-Star Game determine home field advantage for the World Series? Short answer: Bud Selig is terrible. Long answer: Okay, so in 2002, the All-Star Game went into the 11th inning, and both teams ran out of pitchers because managers were supposed to use all the players on the roster to make fans happy. So Bud Selig turned off the rules and declared the game a tie. That caused a firestorm of criticism, so the All-Star Game needed to be important so the players would try harder, I guess? In response, Selig spun his Wheel Of Nonsensical Solutions and came away with "First Thing A Six-Year-Old Child Suggests."
Baseball isn't like other sports; home field advantage doesn't just consist of the away team dealing with a hostile crowd and the home team getting to sleep in their own beds that night. The home advantage is written into the rules of the game. (Granted, by the numbers, baseball has less of a home advantage than basketball or football, but the advantage exists nonetheless.) It's even more apparent in the World Series, where the home team doesn't just get a friendly crowd and the opportunity to bat last -- it also enjoys the rules of its league (pitchers batting and double switches in the NL, designated hitters in the AL). This is a marked competitive advantage that is decided by players from different teams three months before the World Series. WTF?
"But hey," you might be saying if you're a baseball person, "what do the statistics say?" Ugh, baseball people and their statistics.
In the nine World Series since this idiotic rule was put into effect, teams with home advantage are 6-3, a winning rate of 67 percent (the three to beat the odds: '03 Marlins, '06 Cardinals, and '08 Phillies). But, as baseball people will tell you, that's a small sample size. Man, they really love using the phrase "sample size." So: In the 76 World Series that used the 2-3-2 format between 1924 and 2002, the team with the home advantage won 43 times, a 57 percent win rate. And the home teams' advantage has increased over the years. In World Series Game 7s, when the pressure is highest, the home team has won the last nine times. (The last Game 7 road winner: The Pirates over the Orioles in 1979. I was a year old.)
This advantage was never more apparent than in last year's World Series, when the Cardinals won Game 6 in 11 innings at home despite being two runs down and one strike away from elimination in both the ninth and 10th innings. Was it one of the most entertaining and dramatic games of baseball ever played? Yes. Did the the Cardinals have the competitive advantage of batting last because the Brewers' Prince Fielder hit a three-run homer in the the fourth inning of an exhibition game on July 12? Also yes.
To be fair, the All-Star Game winner determining home field advantage in the Series is not demonstrably more or less fair than the old system of alternating years between the leagues. But where the new system is inexplicable and nonsensical, the old system was traditional and nonpartisan. Baseball has a lot of rules that don't make perfect sense, but at least most of them have 100 years of tradition behind them. I can accept balks (whatever they are) because they're older than my grandfather. I reject this All-Star Game crap because the reasoning is "Well, people were mad about the commissioner declaring an All-Star Game a tie, so he made the game affect the World Series."
Selig wanting to give the All-Star Game meaning is like dressing up a dachshund in a top hat and monocle: It's pretty cute when something silly tries to look serious. But making the All-Star Game determine home advantage in the World Series is like dressing up a dachshund in a top hat and monocle, and then making that dachshund Secretary of the Treasury. "Ha ha!, unemployment and inflation are skyrocketing! Look at his little legs!" said Bud Selig, an awful human being.