A place for sports fans to go on offense against reactionary bullshit.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Super Bowl Post Mortem
The New York Football Giants (and that's the only Berman-ism I can stand) went 9-7 in the regular season this year. Then they won the Super Bowl.
This is, of course, what you get with a single-elimination playoff structure with one game rounds. Sometimes, weird shit is going to happen- a blown call, a QB having a bad day, an ill-timed injury, hell, even bad hops are going to decide some of these games- and thus, some teams' seasons. (The same is true, to some extent, with any playoff system. Baseball's post season has rounds of 5, 7, and 7 games, and they haven't exactly avoided flukey champions).
But y'know what? Playoffs are fun and exciting precisely BECAUSE anything can happen when the stakes are that high. Hell, I figure watching a six seed beat a #1 is one of the divine pleasures of being sports fan (so long as you're closer in sympathy to the #6). So I'm not really interested in relitigating the role of the playoffs; they're fun, we all have fun with 'em, and they make a metric choda-ton of money, they're not going anywhere.
What I'm more interested in is if we're really sure that the Giants were such a mediocre team. Because here's the thing: Yeah, a half dozen playoff games are a lousy amount of data points to determine who the best team is.
But 16 regular season games aren't that much better.
Look at the evidence. The Giants spent the first half of their season plagued by injuries. Justin Tuck. Osi Umenyiora. Most of their defensive corps was banged up until the last few weeks. I'm sure true Giants fans can name a dozen other things- let's just call them X, Y, and Z.
By the time the playoffs rolled around, though, they were healthy again, X, Y, and Z were solved (like in math class!). And perhaps consequently, the Giants started winning some games. In other words, I think it's fair to argue that the Giants' regular season was flukey, and their playoff run was more representative of their skill.
It's kind of fashionable amongst the more nerdy segments of sports fandom (and I consider myself that) to decry playoffs, saying that they're too small a sample size to really tell us who the best teams were. But when you're already working with a small sample, and you've got some reason to doubt some of the results in that sample, aren't ANY more data points good? In other words, aren't their situations where the playoffs don't just obfuscate, but really illuminate?
I guess I'll put it to you guys: were the Giants a mediocre team that got some flukey wins in the playoffs, or did they have a flukey regular season, but became themselves in the playoffs?