The League

Emil Steiner
Editor and Blogger

Emil Steiner

The author of NFL Crime Watch and Founding Editor of The League.

NFL: Competition Perfected

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There are no playoff systems that exist perfectly -- that are both equitable and exciting without seeming contrived. Say what you will about the NCAA Tournament, or the World Series, for my money the NFL playoffs come the closest.

Of the 32 possible teams, 12 make it. Of them the ones who deserve to get byes usually do. The Wild Cards have to earn their shot at Vince Lombardi's trophy by playing an extra game. There are upsets, but they are measured. No 15-2 stunners. Instead the fan is left with an exciting, well packaged competition, timed and scheduled for maximum viewership.

The level of the game is raised, and the intensity fierce because, due to the prohibitive nature of football, there can't be a best of x series. It's win and you're in. So fans end up with the sporting ideal: Two competitors, one shot -- make or break, do or die.

People watch sports for numerous reasons, distraction, camaraderie, escapism. But intrinsic to all that is the competition. There is winner and a loser determined by performance under a discrete set of rules which, unlike real life, have almost no gray area. Football's playoff system is the most entertaining embodiment of that, as the ratings reflect.

By Emil Steiner  |  October 1, 2008; 9:40 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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