About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Sporting Scene

So as we all gear up for the excitement of this evening's Bowl Selection Special...

No, the BCS isn't fair, it's rigged against schools that are out of the major BCS conferences, and having a college football playoff will not save the system. As I posted at the start of the year, college football fans and pundits will still argue over which 8 teams make the playoff, because there's no way the supporters of the #9 team won't think it's really #6. And there's no guarantee the best team will win every game, some player will get injured in practice or be suspended for violating team rules. Let's just settle for the idea that college football will never, should never, have a truly declared "champion" and the world will survive. The other scenario that works for me is that college football can institute a playoff the same year that my mother declares which of her children is her one and true favorite.

Also on the tube today is the final of the 2010 Davis Cup. Tennis purists in the US deeply bemoan the fact that this championship doesn't get more love and attention from Americans. It's so big in the rest of the world, why not here? If they'll just change the calendar! That will make it relevant.

But here's the problem with Davis Cup. The final match of the year that will determine if the Cup is won by Serbia or France --

-- oops, that's kind of the actual real problem any conversation has to start with, is that chauvinists in the US don't so much care about sporting events that are being won by Serbians or Frenchmen, or are as likely to be expatriate Serbs who care, but not if it's won by an American --

but we'll leave that whole issue aside because even chauvinist Americans recognize greatness and at least to some extent the half-serious casual American tennis fan will care about Wimbledon or the US Open even if an American isn't involved so long as the player is an acknowledged top player in the game like Federer or Nadal, the problem with Davis Cup is that this year's championship match is being contested by Viktor Troicki, a Serbian whose current world rank is #30, and the 23rd ranked Frenchman Michael Llodra. Now, I don't want to belittle the accomplishments of being ranked in the top 30 in tennis. That make you a pretty darned good tennis player. But at the same time, as deep as men's tennis can be there's still a pretty big gap between being the top 5, the top 10, and the top 30. There's a reason why the year-end champion's tournament for the ATP men's tour ended up being contested by Nadal and Federer, which is that the top players in the world are actually better and kind of significantly so than the rest of them. They don't win every week (please see note on "best team not guaranteed to win college football playoff" above) but they win way more often than not for a reason.

And how many people are going to get jazzed up over a sporting competition that ends up being determined by players or teams that are determinedly off of the top level? We can argue if the best teams make the Stanley Cup finals or the World Series, but to a greater or lesser degree the regular season does weed out the worst teams from making the playoffs, even in hockey you don't make the cut by being below the 50th percentile. A better team may lose to an inferior team in any given round of playoffs, but the odds of the lesser team winning multiple rounds define why we call those "Cinderella stories" that have interest on their own. None of these sporting championships we really care about consistently end up coming down to the tennis equivalent of #23 vs #30.

Sorry, Patrick McEnroe and Jim Courier and John McEnroe, but you're never going to go very far advocating American enthusiasm for Davis Cup when it means people have to be up at 10AM EST on a Sunday morning to watch #23 vs #30. Or even worse, at 7AM on a Saturday morning when the final match ends up being in the doubles. It doesn't even matter that people have to adjust to watching a scoreboard on the TV set that says "Srb-Fra" instead of Troicki-Llodra because we have to uphold the idea that it's two countries playing instead of two tennis players.

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