Accepting Mediocrity

The sports world has been driving down a path of rewarding mediocrity for decades now. 1/3 of the MLB teams make the playoffs. 16 of 30 NHL & NBA teams play post season. On a VERY rare occasion one of the lowest seeds wins the title. But… this expansion of teams in the playoffs has led to mediocrity being accepted as “good”.
…with football just kicking off the 2021 season, let’s look @ College Football. Originally, Bowl games were designed to match up games between the very best teams of the country. In 2019, 78 of the 130 D-1 college football teams played in post-season bowl games! Currently, the bowl games prior to around Dec 20 (the later the bowl, the better the teams) “showcase” all the so-called “good”.500 or slightly above .500 teams often from major conferences…but….who really cares other than alumni? Forget about conference affiliations, cut it to 15 bowls….are there really more than 30 really good teams? The mediocre play of many of the bowl games are often totally ignored. Further, teams could upgrade their non-conference schedule and play actual top notch opponents in non-league games without the concern of losing on the scoreboard, in national rankings & on landing in a bowl. It was done long ago when conference championship meant much more to a program. Dan Devine (Mizzou coach in 60’s) wanted to play top-notch opponents to prepare for the Big-8. In 1961, the MU non-league opponents were Washington St, Minnesota, California, in 62 it was Cal, Minnesota & Arizona. In ‘63 it was #7 Northwestern, #8 Arkansas & Idaho (ok..there’s a cupcake). Currently most teams schedule 3 easy cupcakes with 1 real game to ensure that they’ll reach the 6-win minimum to quality for a bowl.
….Some suggestions.. Make the minimum to play in a bowl be 8 wins OR 7 wins with at least 4 wins over top 25 teams to reach a bowl. Get rid of Conference and Group of Five requirements for bowls. If the desire is to expand the national championship tournament to 8 teams (7 bowl games right there), that’d be acceptable also. I know…you’re thinking it’s all about the money….IT IS—no doubt …and one might think that you’d be hammering the conferences that don’t have most of the “stud” teams. Well…Include some percentage payment to all the teams—not just to their league.. and not just to those participating teams or the teams that have some powerhouse programs in their conference. It can be done….the NCAA Basketball has a refreshing turnover of Final 4 teams and even final 16 teams from a wide assortment of conferences. Football does not. Speaking of NCAA basketball …68 of he 353 D-1 teams qualify for the NCAA tournament… respectable!
….right now the Cardinals are fighting for a playoff spot with a mediocre 50% winning percentage! Winning just a slight notch over half your games, should NOT make you a playoff contender. The GOOD teams should advance….not the mediocre .500ish teams. The rise, and acceptance, of mediocrity across the league isn’t healthy for the league. Too many teams are playing to be the 2nd “wild card” (5th of 15 teams—what a mediocre goal). Several of these types of teams passed on acquiring better (more expensive) players at the deadline. It was decided to ride the horse named “Mediocre” to reach the finish line. Look around the stadiums with these mediocre teams performing to smaller crowds. Mediocrity has lost some fans but has that mediocrity lost some fans permanently?
…. Yet…despite this mediocre record, the Cardinals “rest” in back-back games against the Dodgers their 2 best players—Arenado & Goldschmidt. Does this make any sense to “rest” your best players against the one of the best teams of the MLB with just 20-some games remaining. Clearly, the decision by manager Schildt was less than mediocre.
….mediocrity abounds in every division in the MLB! How do you make it better? One way…chop off 1 month of the season, let regular season end @Labor Day with a 132 game schedule so the Playoffs won’t go past Halloween. Add 2 teams to the league to reach 32 teams. Make each game more valuable. Isn’t 132 games enough to determine the true winner? With the shorter season, more off-days, we’d see the better pitchers MORE often, fewer days “off” for the regular players, more importance to each series, more intensity, less mediocrity. Further, go back to just 2 leagues with 2 divisions per League (add 1 more team to each league). Realign the divisions geographically. East, West, Midwest, Southwest. Play each division opponent 12x (84 games) and each team of the other division in your league 6 games each=48 games. That’s 132 games.
…. On a side note….baseball has currently has mediocre interest with the younger folks (the future of the game). Part of it may be a) too s….l….o…w…put in a shot clock that a loud buzzer goes off that awards a “ball” to the batter (currently umpires generally ignore it b) any MLB production is blocked off streaming venues…how foolish…doesn’t the MLB realize that young folks live on streaming ..not TV? They are “cutting their own throat” with this approach. C) redesign the hierarchy (currently a commissioner is paid by the league)—find a way to incorporate the players representation in an equivalent manner as the owners. Hopefully, the regularity of strikes and harmony between the two factions would be circumvented with a duo leadership partnership. Strikes leave bad tastes.. sometimes for long periods of time… in everyone’s mouth.
….speaking of money….to assist teams to exit the Mediocre Road, the MLB should require each MLB team to have a minimum team & individual salary base but eliminate any contract of more than 3 years for individual players. Further, install an air tight maximum pay scale. Salary scales should be tied to the overall income of the MLB with a certain percentage for the players, minor leagues, etc. These moves would seem to make the weakest teams better and provide, on the open market, a wider range of quality players, hence—mediocrity would be shoved aside for competitiveness. Isn’t that the beauty of the NFL… a city like Green Bay can compete on an equal plain?
….but mediocrity can be seen easily in football also. If there’s such a thing, Mizzou won a “mediocre” win over Central Michigan in its opener. Central Michigan hails from Mid-American Conference. Central Michigan was listed as the #4 team of the Western Division of MAC in the pre-season polls. Yet the Chippewas outgained the Tigers for the game 475-468, gained more 1st downs 27-22, had longer time of possession 31:53 to Mizzou’s 27:48. It was reported that def Coordinator had to “dial it up” in the 2nd half to halt the offense of Cen Michigan. I always felt as a Coach if I had a better team than the opponent that we didn’t need any “stunts”, slants, blitzes, etc. We could beat this inferior opponent—playing STRAIGHT UP. Sure…a win is a win but it wasn’t a “blow out” by any means, it was a mediocre win for the Tigers.
….Hopefully, this blog didn’t drive you down the path of Mediocrity but kept you to its conclusion. Thanks for the read! Check out http://www.bobryansportsblog.com for past blogs that you’ve missed or look @ bob Ryan Facebook to read the responses of other readers on this blog.

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