No Surprises Here …

Recently, Scott Ostler wrote in the SF Chronicle:

“Looking over the Warriors’ regular-season schedule, I was shocked and surprised. The NBA is going to make the Warriors play the regular season?”

And in those two statements is the kernel of why I prefer football and baseball to pro basketball.  In the NFL, just about every year, some team that finished last in their division in the previous year finds a way to win that division in that year.  Heck, in 2017, the Eagles went from worst-to-first in the NFC East and then compounded that “rise from the ashes” by going on to win the Super Bowl.  It happens frequently enough in the NFL that we are no longer shocked when it happens again.

Similarly, in MLB, there are always surprise/Cinderella teams that far exceed the expectations and prognostications of the experts.  This year, you can point to the Braves, Phillies, Mariners and the A’s as teams that are in a far better position as we head into the final 6 weeks of the season than just about anyone anticipated.  The fact of the uncertainty makes for greater sustained interest over the seasons in the NFL and MLB.

In the NBA – particularly in this “Era of the Superteam” – a lot of the mystery is wrung out of the season.  Absent a rash of injuries or some sort of tragedy befalling a team like the Golden State Warriors, what sort of a scenario can you imagine whereby they will not be part of the Conference playoffs and most likely one of the teams in the Conference finals?  The Warriors will play 82 games and less than a handful of them will be important games in the overall status of the playoff teams in the Western Conference.

Look at the idea of “worst-to-first” in the NBA and tell me who you like next season to accomplish that feat:

  1. The Brooklyn Nets were 28-54 last year.  They would probably have to reverse those numbers in their record for the upcoming season to win their division.  Does anyone really think that is going to happen?
  2. The Chicago Bulls were 27-55 last year.  Somehow, I do not think a whole lot of folks would expect the Bulls to rever4se the numbers in their record either.
  3. The Atlanta Hawks were 24-58 last year.  Forget winning their division, the Hawks would probably have to increase their number of wins by more than 60% to make the playoffs comfortably as an 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.
  4. The Denver Nuggets were 46-36 last year.  I guess you could look at the numbers and suggest that they might wind up in first place in their division come April 2019.  However, if you look at the teams in their division who finished ahead of the Nuggets, (the Blazers, Thunder, Jazz and Timberwolves), you might not be so anxious to bet the ranch on them wining their division.
  5. The Phoenix Suns were 21-61 last year.  Unless the NBA can find a way for the Suns to play the Washington Generals 30-40 times next year, the Suns are not winning their division.
  6. The Memphis Grizzlies were 22-60 last year.  See the comment above regarding the Suns to see my view of their “road to the playoffs” and their chances of winning their division.

Notwithstanding the scheduling hype and PR surrounding the revelation of the NBA regular season schedule – – which teams will play whom on Christmas Day and how many regular season games will be played in foreign countries next year – – the fact is that the regular season is pretty gruesome fare until about the beginning of March when a few of the teams get serious about every game because they are fighting for that final playoff slot or two and/or they are fighting for advantageous seeding.

FIFA awarded the World Cup Tournament in 2026 to North America.  Games will be played in Mexico, Canada and the US; I believe this is the first time the World Cup will be a “regional event” as opposed to a single country event.  Whatever … that is only marginally interesting.  What I wonder is if these countries will be able to generate a financial windfall for themselves by the fact of hosting the tournament.

In recent times, the World Cup has not been a gigantic moneymaker for the countries that hosted the tournament.  In large measure, that is because countries like Brazil and South Africa had to spend lots of “upfront money” in order to have stadium venues that met FIFA standards and in order to have a sufficient infrastructure to support the games that would be played in those venues.  Building new stadiums and new roads to get to the venues and sufficient hotel accommodations is not cheap.  What happened then was that countries never made up those upfront costs plus the costs of putting on the day-to-day events in the tournament.

The difference for the North American countries is that they have extant stadiums that can be used to host the games.  Some of the stadiums may need minor upgrades and maybe some “spiffing up”, but there will not be a need to build 5 or 6 new stadiums where none exist now.  Similarly, the infrastructure to get players, fans and media to and from all the venues is in place and most – if not all – of the cities that will host games already have plenty of hotel rooms.  So, on the surface, I would expect the North American countries to wind up in the black on this event.  However, I am not an economist…

So, there is a website called The Sports Economist.  As you may expect, this site features economists analyzing issues related to sports and economics.  I figure that the authors there will have a far more reasoned insight into that issue than I do.  So, I used the “Contact Us” feature there to pose this question to the managers of that website.  If or when they provide some analysis that is more detailed and more thoughtful than the one I gave here, I will report back and link you to their thoughts.

Finally, late night comedy host, James Corden had this to say about a new LeBron James entertainment venture:

“HBO recently announced that LeBron James will be hosting a new talk show set in a barbershop in Los Angeles and it’s called ‘The Shop’.  Apparently, LeBron’s talk show is going to be him and four random guests you may or may not have heard of.   You know, like when he plays basketball.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



4 thoughts on “No Surprises Here …”

  1. To reinforce your suspicions about stadiums, the new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta should not require much more than checking for gum under the seats. The designers cleverly made the stadium work for soccer and they had a crowd of just about 72K for a regular season MLS game last season. This is where the FIFA Finals should be held.

    1. Doug:

      I would think that there are at least a half-dozen relatively new NFL stadiums that could host World Cup games – or the Finals. Surely the stadium in Mexico City would work too. I am not familiar with stadium venues in Canada but I have to suspect there are facilities there that can handle these events. I once toured the stadium where the BC Lions play their CFL games and if i recall correctly, it sat 60,000. I would not be surprised if other CFL facilities were of similar size.

  2. In 2002, Japan and South Korea co-hosted the World Cup. Whether it was a successful financial venture, I do not know, but as a soccer tournament, it was a smashing success.

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