From the dawn of mankind humans have always had an innate desire to be number one. This can be seen in wars between nations, capitalism, and elections in government. However, not everyone can take part in these ventures, so the desire is quenched in a universal activity-sports. Winning a match against an opponent is always the best outcome. But what about winning them all?
College football has seen many undefeated teams come through since its inception, with those teams often winning a National Championship the same year. CFB is also the league where remaining undefeated is the most important – Despite a team losing on a freak play in a game that they should have won (See Michigan vs. Michigan State), it could be argued that their ranking should remain the same, that they are obviously the better team and would win the match 9/10 times if not for the randomness that sometimes graces the sport. But the team that got the ‘W’ can’t be punished because luck is on their side, as putting wins on ‘luck’ could lead to a slippery slope of not giving teams credit while giving others leniency.
While the new 4-team playoff system and equal talent levels have evened the field for teams trying to get to the National Championship, losses are still crippling. Teams’ seasons can end on one single play of the game. In college football, more than any other sport, being undefeated is King.
The NFL, where nowadays more than ever has 32 teams that could all upset one another any given Sunday has only witnessed one undefeated squad in its time. The 1972 Miami Dolphins won all their games including the Super Bowl, resulting in a 14-0 season. This seems to indicate that wins, while still important, are not as valuable as they are in CFB. The prime example of this – The 2011 New England Patriots went into the Superbowl 15-0 after a bye and one game facing the 9-7 New York Giants, who had only managed to scrape their way in through a wild card spot at the end of the season.
And we all know how that turned out.
And then there’s the National Basketball Association. In the NBA Finals for the 2014-15 season the Golden State Warriors met the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors winning 80% of their games that season to get there, the Cavaliers winning 60%. Yet after a few games into the series the Cav’s had a legitimate chance to win before falling in Game 6.
The NBA is the prime example in sports of ‘On any given day, anyone can win.’. 1 Seeds rarely meet in the finals, and often teams get in through upsets. Fans could go into the postseason with their team at the 8th seed with a sliver of hope that they could win it all.
Which ‘Winning” is best?
Positives and negatives can be seen with each system and its tendencies – CFB rewards teams that are successful while not giving more teams a chance, the NFL rewards successful teams while giving lower teams a shot, and the NBA almost only requires that a team makes the playoffs, after that it’s up in the air.
The audience doesn’t seem to dislike any of the systems-Viewership for all three is continuing to grow and schools and teams in each are making more money than ever before. It all comes down to preference in the end. How do you like your league? What should the value of a win be?