Life, economics, politics, psychology, sociology, racism and other isms, law, history, journalism/media…all through the lens of sport.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Win or go home

As we're on the cusp of the 2010-2011 NHL season, it's time to revisit an oddity that, unfortunately, has yet to be fixed. So, I once again shout into the wind, "get rid of that absurd point for an overtime loss in the NHL."

The North American team leagues that have national TV deals don't bother with points at all, so abandoning the silly stat isn't like inventing the wheel.

A win is a win, a loss is a loss, and the win percentage determines standings. That also eliminates the whole "game in hand" claptrap - at any given point in time in a season, regardless how many games have been played, it's a simple matter - 7 wins in 10 games is a .700 win percentage; 9 of 12 is .750; 10 of 13 is 0.769.

The concept of playing a game until a winner and loser are declared is what the playoffs are all about, right? It seems simple to me - if you can't win a championship by tying a game, you shouldn't be able to get to the championship by tying a game. In the playoffs, a team wins a best 3 of 5 or a best 4 of 7, and if they went to overtime for every game in the series, the losing team gets no brownie points for the overtime loss. It's not a strange concept, and that's what confuses me most about hanging on to this silly statistic. The league is already familiar with playing a game to win.

If that means overtime till it's two on two, or shootouts till the goalies and mascots get to take a shot, so be it. MLB will go non-stop through as many extra innings as it takes to declare a winner. NBA has seen triple overtimes, if that's what it takes. NFL assumes that pro teams can figure out how to at least kick a field goal in 15 minutes of OT play, and most times they do (there have been four regular season ties in the NFL in the last twenty years, for an average of one every five seasons).

But imagine it - it would raise the excitement value of each game in the regular season to near playoff pitch, which would be great for fans in cities where the playoffs are something they'll only hear about, like Toronto. It would also be great for the league, and if the excitement factor increases, wouldn't that make a more sell-able product?

Pro athletes whining about "playing all that time and not being rewarded for the effort" are absurd. It's sports - the reward is winning.

Whining that "a shoot out is tough way to lose a team game on an individual play" is silly - is a breakaway score an individual thing? How about a penalty shot? What about a goalie who stands on his head and his team wins 1-0 because the other team inadvertently scored on their own goal? If the "team" can't figure out a way to win as a team in regulation, they take their chances in OT/shootout. That's pro sports.

Win or go home.

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