Any Given Sunday
Yesterday (you know, the day I was supposed to have this article done…), a Sunday, Manchester United defeated Liverpool to go atop the EPL with no one able to catch them with games in hand. I just wanted to mention that as a ManU fan and to keep you from thinking this was an NFL post. 😉
The title phrase was coined by Bert Bell in 1958 in regards to what is now called ‘parity’ in the NFL. For those of you not in the US, Sunday is ‘the’ day for the professional American football. Sure, there’s Monday Night Football and the occasional Thursday game, but Sunday is the day. If you ask me, the NFL (and the MLS, but that’s another post entirely) have too much parity. This is going to get a little off subject, but indulge me. No one wants to see a team buy a championship, but Real Madrid and the New York Yankees have both proven you simply can’t do it. I could see it being possible in the NBA, with only 5 players on the court, but the closest thing the NBA has seen to the Galácticos, the 2004 Lakers, proved not to be a winning formula. The draft in the US or youth programs in Europe add enough spice to see a team like Montpellier HSC atop Ligue 1 or Åtvidaberg FF in the top league of a country.
Sustained greatness is certainly possible, winning championships is not (depending upon how you define greatness, of course). If you look at Barcelona, a lot of those world-class players came through their system. Even Messi, an Argentinian, spent four years in the Barcelona youth system. ManU also has had regulars Paul Scholes, Wes Brown and Gary Neville come through their youth system. Neither of those clubs opposed to buying either; Zlatan (affectionately known as BigZ) is a clear example of that. I’m not going to argue that ManU’s youth system is anywhere close to Barca’s, but it’s telling that they made bigger news with selling to Madrid than with any of their pickups. All of this is to say that money cannot buy championships. Rich clubs still have to buy quality players that fit in their system and also make sure they are developing the best youth sides lest someone catch them. Champions League and such changes the equation a bit, but that (like MLS parity) is another post altogether. Even when the money is stacked against you, or even if you don’t play on Sundays, “any given Sunday,” a team can win.
The same is true in college basketball. (You didn’t see that coming, did you?) Especially on Saturdays, it would seem. Unless you live under a rock or don’t live in the US, Northern Iowa beat Kansas Saturday. Millions of brackets blew to the wayside with that game. Mine did, but Purdue helped bring it back to respectability. The unpredictability of the tournament is what gives it so much of it’s luster. My roommate and I discussed how it compared to the FA Cup. One of the differences is FA Cup games aren’t played on a neutral site until the final, but it’s much different from that too. For those of you on the other side of the pond, you can think of a similar sort of excitement toward the giant killing.
One of the things I loved to do as a kid and that I haven’t done in years because I haven’t had time is to redo my bracket after each round. Let’s try this again.
MSU over NIU (originally had KU)
OSU over UT (original pick)
Syracuse over Butler (original winner)
KState over Xavier (originally had Pittsburgh)
UK over Cornell (original winner)
WVU over Washington (original winner)
dook over Purdue (original winner)
Baylor over St. Mary’s (original winner)
Not going to go through the other games now, but I now say a Syracuse/dook final with UK and OSU in the Final Four. I hope that’s not how it turns out, but that’s what I expect.
Games are starting again on Thursday and then on Friday, but…any given Sunday.