Warning: off topic (for the most part) post ahead.
Back when I used to read the Bridge World magazines regularly, there were infrequent discussions about an oddity that was (allegedly) occurring
in tournaments that they called sportsmanlike dumping.
The main gist of the situation was that the format of some of these tournaments made it so that in theory you could increase your chances of winning the entire tournament by losing a match. The issue was somewhat controversial. Some people believed that it was ethical to lose in such a situation since winning the tournament is the true goal. Others believed that playing sub-optimally on purpose was damaging to the game. I come down pretty firmly in the second camp.
There were multiple ways this type of situation could arise but a solution to one of them stuck with me as a nice answer to that particular instance of the problem.
Those of you who have discussed sports to any degree with me know that I think of the three remaining major sports left in this country (I can't count hockey anymore) basketball has the most entertaining base product out there. Meaning if I'm flipping random channels on the TV
and hit a sporting event between two teams with whom I have no inherent rooting interest, I'm much more likely to watch a basketball game than the others. On the other hand, despite Bud Selig's best efforts
and Bill Simmons propaganda
to the contrary, I think the NBA is the worst run league out there.
There is an epidemic of atrocious officiating. Horrendous decisions have been made by the league offices during the playoffs that have ruined the competitiveness of them. Changing the ball was moronic. The dress code is stupid. But I'm ignoring all of that. What I'm interested in is the fact that dumping or tanking as it is called in the NBA seems to be an acceptable event to the commissioner's office.
Last year you had teams falling all over themselves trying to lose at the end of the season so they could drop from the fifth seed and playing the Mavericks in round one to the sixth seed and playing my Nuggets instead because of the seeding system in place then that guaranteed a top 3 seed to a division winner. So the NBA, as is typical of them, slapped a temporary fix band-aid on the problem and changed it so that division winners are only guaranteed a top 4 seed.
This year you had teams falling all over themselves trying to lose by the middle
of the season so they could increase their chances of getting a top 2 pick in this years NBA draft. Fans were openly
rooting for their teams to lose even going so far as to boo when their teams did something inappropriate like playing to win the game. It was very nice to see that the teams engaging in this behavior were not rewarded by the random number generator but that does not change the fact that the behavior happened.
Also this year, in theory at least Dallas had incentive to try to lose games to drop out of the 1 seed and avoid a warriors team that matched up well with them on paper and that at the end of the season was playing at a level far exceeding that of the 7 seed lakers
In my opinion, league offices should do everything in their power to eliminate any incentive to lose.
So back to the solution that one bridge tournament did: The top seeds at the end of the round-robin portion (regular season) got to pick their opponents from the other qualified teams in the bottom half during the knockout (playoffs). This simple fix for both the first and second rounds along with seeding only by record would completely eliminate incentive to lose to allow better playoff positioning.
I understand that this would reward a team that was a 1 seed more than in the current system and would punish teams that did not finish in the top 3, but there is a saying a friend of mine likes to use in this situation: "get better". The regular season is 82 games long. What happens there should be meaningful and there should be a strong incentive to not take half the regular season off and then turn it on in the playoffs.
As to the draft situation, I really like the idea of an equal weight lottery among all 30 teams for the top three spots. The remaining picks would go in reverse order according
to record. This eliminates jump points where ones expected draft position improves more by being one spot lower in the standings at some points than others. As far as competitive balance is concerned, I think doing something radical like this might convince the NBA GMs
who see their yearly appearance in the draft lottery as a birthright (at least apparently from the types of moves they make) that they need to do their homework and collect pieces intelligently in free agency. If this happened, maybe we would see more turnover in the playoff teams.
Also, if you go back and examine drafts from say the past 10 years, you will find that there was typically at least one good player both available at pick five and at least highly thought of to be drafted in the top 10 picks. So a team with a poor record will still get a shot at a good player assuming they do their homework and know who he is. Every once in a while you might even be able to grab a franchise player around then.
Yes, it would be ridiculous if the Suns, Spurs or Mavericks got Oden
or Durant. Ridiculously intriguing.
How does this topic relate to boardgaming? If we did leagues of some sort I guess this could arise. I dunno, any ideas?
Labels: Off Topic, sports, sportsmanlike dumping, tanking