Parity in Sports

Saturday while flipping between the Mavs' playoff game and the NFL draft I started thinking about a common theory in today's sports world. People, now more than ever, seem to think there is a lot of parity in sports.

You often hear about how free agency in professional sports, especially football, has really leveled the playing field. Right as a team starts taking steps building a winning program their stud takes off after the big bucks.

In college sports, you hear about how scholarship limits have leveled the playing field and created more parity from top to bottom. Also, high school studs who want playing time from day one, so they can make that jump to the pros, may not prefer to go to a high profile school where they won't see the field or court until their junior or senior year.

I do believe there is some truth to this increase in parity. Upsets are more prevalent. In the NFL, it seems week to week almost anybody can beat anybody.

But while these factors (free agency, scholarship limits, etc) have increased the parity for most teams it has not at all affected the great teams- the championship teams. Once it is playoff time all this parity talk can be thrown to the wayside.

Take a look at the past few championship games

Major League Baseball
Red Sox vs Cardinals
Okay, so this is probably the worst of my examples but let me give it a shot. The Cardinals were the best team all year and finished with the best record in baseball. The Red Sox and Yankees were 2a and 2b with the edge going to the Yankees because they are the Yankees and the Red Sox were supposed to be cursed.

College Football
Oklahoma vs USC
These two teams were the best all year and their matchup in the BCS championship had been anticipated for over a year. All the scholarship limits and upsets had no affect on them.

NFL
Philadelphia vs New England
The Patriots were the defending champs and despite finishing the regular season one game worse than Pittsburgh you had to believe they were the team to beat. From the day last spring Terrel Owens weaseled his way into an Eagles uniform they were destined to finally make that jump to the Super Bowl.

College Basketball
Illinois vs North Carolina
Illinois played like the best team in the country all year. Despite Illinois' number 1 ranking, UNC received more publicity. UNC is the Premodanna School where Jordan and other greats played and legends coached. They entered the tournament as 1 and 2.

Championship teams and championship players don't let the parity affect them. These leagues implement these systems to intentionally create more successful underdogs because that is what Americans love to see. However, the championship teams were not made because of the petty help of systems. The New England Patriots are a small market team from Foxboro, Massachusetts and they have built a dynasty. They did not build this dynasty with the help of the system and they have not let things like free agency, poor draft position, and tough scheduling prevent them from winning.

These systems do not and can not create winners. Two players, Troy Aikman and Russell Maryland, have been drafted number 1 in the NFL draft in the past 20 years and led their team to the Super Bowl. Jamal Lewis is the only top 5 pick in the past decade to do it.

There will always be underdogs and as Americans we will always cheer for them. Creating systems that help them win cheapen their accomplishments. Underdogs are successful not because they benefit from a system, rather because of their determination and pride. Regardless of the attempts to bring down the greats and pump up the weak, the really great will always overcome.

"Champions know there are no shortcuts to the top"

hj

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