Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Tuesday, January 08, 2008 :::

In fact, Steve, I also had that last thought: there have been some years in the past decade that I've felt called for a three-team playoff, and others a one-team playoff, while in others the two-team playoff seemed well-calibrated. This year I really felt called for a zero-team playoff, and I didn't feel bad about missing last night's game.

I had also noted a fair number of people taking this year the way your commentators did, and I had the same thoughts as you, and really thought this a supreme example of people coming to opinions and fitting any new data to support that opinion, rather than the other way around. (As Mark Twain said, the way a drunkard uses a lamp post: more for support than illumination.)

The thing is, I'm starting to come around to the idea of, say, a six-team playoff, and from almost exactly the opposite reasoning to that usually used. At the end of any given year, the winner of a single-elimination playoff, even with only six teams, is probably less likely to be the best team (insofar as such a thing is well-defined) than the team that is voted number one by a decent system without badly exacerbating systematic errors. What makes me more favorably disposed toward a playoff system than I was before is the affect it would have on the regular season. In college basketball, a lot of good teams try to play a lot of other good teams to tune up in the non-conference season; creating a situation in which a team from a BCS conference could almost guarantee its way into the playoffs by winning its last eight games and three of its first four, perhaps teams would be more predisposed to try that, especially if they knew that, in addition, losing a conference game would probably keep you in good shape if you had beaten at least one good team from another conference, while if you hadn't you'd be more tenuous. Beyond attempts to schedule tougher opponents, a six-team playoff would still give every game importance, as any team without a loss will have an easier path to the championship than a team with the same schedule but with a loss; meanwhile, games between teams that are currently essentially eliminated — at least in normal years — could still be playing for the last playoff spot. The worst thing, in this regard, about a playoff is caught in my own language in that last sentence: we "give every game importance" insofar as it affects the championship. Particularly for what is still nominally an amateur sporting event, it seems to me a sad phenomenon that trying to win a game for the sake of trying to win that game is so often so badly subservient to the idea that every season is a failure for every team in the country except one.

::: posted by dWj at 7:03 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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