It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Sports World

By Barrett, Wayne M. | USA TODAY, March 1999 | Go to article overview

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Sports World


Barrett, Wayne M., USA TODAY


The world of sports, like society at large, is a melange of hypocrisy, greed, injustice, and confusion on the one hand and excitement, thrills, tension, and unpredictability on the other. Most of all, though, the athletic arena and its satellites remain a mystery of misplaced priorities and profound absurdities--at least from a personal standpoint. Silly or not, it's absolutely maddening to think that:

* The broadcast networks consistently lie about the starting times of games, only to hit viewers with an ultra-hyped pregame show that's designed to get them to watch something they're already tuned in to.

* With the latest escalation of baseball salaries, there once again is the clarion call from double-dealing team executives and ignorant media members that the disparity between small-revenue clubs and large-revenue franchises will result in the same teams winning year after year. That's bunk, both long and short term. In the last 20 years, there's been one repeat World Series champion, the Toronto Blue Jays. In the last three years, meanwhile, out of a possible six slots, five different teams have won pennants and gone on to play in the World Series. The New York Yankees appeared twice in that span. (Moreover, the San Francisco Giants, with a modest, middle-of-the-pack salary structure, have managed a pair of post-season appearances in the last two seasons. In 1997, they shocked the experts by winning the National League Western Division crown. In 1998, they staged one of the greatest final-week comebacks in history to finish tied with the Chicago Cubs for the wildcard spot, which they eventually lost in a one-game playoff.)

* The advent of small division groupings in major league baseball and the National Hockey League rewards mediocrity while punishing excellence. In 1997, both the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers missed the post-season despite having better records than the playoff-bound Houston Astros. And the NHL's six-division alignment instituted this season practically ensures division champions with barely above .500 records getting home-ice advantage against clubs that earned at-large playoff bids with higher point totals.

* National Football League franchises that shift to a different city still maintain their old nicknames and uniforms. The St. Louis Rams (formerly Los Angeles), Arizona Cardinals (formerly St. Louis), Indianapolis Colts (formerly Baltimore), and Tennessee Oilers (formerly Houston) all fit the bill, although the Oilers, after two years in their new home, finally changed their name to Titans for the upcoming 1999 season.

And what's with team names that don't reflect where the club actually plays? The Detroit Lions play in Pontiac, Mich. The Dallas Cowboys play in Irving, Tex. Both the New York Giants and New York Jets play across the state line in New Jersey. In hockey, the Washington Capitals played in Landover, Md., from 1974 to 1998 before finally moving into D.C. itself. The Ottawa Senators play in Kanata, Ontario. (What, the capital of Canada isn't a good enough site?)

* Despite a variety of eye-catching football outfits as well as the advent of hockey's "third" jerseys, there is a decided lack of creativity concerning uniform design. …

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