By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – I’m relatively certain that the best team in the NFL didn’t win the Super Bowl. In fact, I’m relatively certain that the second, third, or fourth best team did not win the Super Bowl.
This could be for one of two reasons. First, because having seen the Ravens play several times this year, and taken a look at the statistics, the Ravens were pretty clearly (to me) not one of the best teams in the league.
Or, parity in the NFL has made it nearly impossible to decipher just who the best teams are, and there likely isn’t even a best team at all.
Whichever reason it is, I don’t like it. Not a little bit.
I miss the 49ers of the 80’s, the Cowboys of the 90’s, and the cheating Patriots of the 00’s. I miss having a top dog for the rest of the league to aim for.
Most of all, I miss having the hours upon hours of time we spend watching regular season games actually mean something.
This is not a case of a Cinderella team winning the Super Bowl and a storybook ending of the underdog coming out on top. This is just another in a series of teams in professional sports getting hot at the right time, winning the championship, and rendering the regular season that we all spent four months watching, meaningless.
The Giants of last season were 9-7 and had a negative point differential during the regular season. The season before that, the 6th seeded Packers defied the odds (or so we thought were the odds) and won three road playoff games on their way to a Super Bowl win.
The Kings won the Stanley Cup as an eight seed.
When the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series, they had the worst record of any team to make the MLB playoffs.
This is probably a case of the expectations I’ve set for professional sports, based on the way they were when I grew up. I won’t argue that there’s a bit of the old guy screaming at the kids to get off his lawn.
I’m also probably slightly disappointed that my prediction of a big 49ers win in the Super Bowl didn’t come true.
There’s no longer the thrill of the underdog winning it all to provide the sort of excitement that it used to. If the underdog wins it all the time, the luster is lost. There is no underdog.
I know why leagues aim for parity. I understand it keeps more cities engaged and in this age of short attention spans, anything helps. I understand that the NFL is more popular than it’s ever been, and this is probably part of the reason. It’s why we see leagues adding playoff spots, and not taking them away. I also understand this isn’t changing any time soon.
I know why, I just don’t have to like it.
It was better when the regular season and post-season told us who the best team was, not just who the best team was on that final day.