Monday, February 05, 2007

Why Does One Conference Always Dominate and One Conference Always Suck?

Of the three professional sports that currently matter right now, all three have one dominant conference and one...ah, less than dominant conference. All right, one conference is incredibly deep and talented and the other is borderline painful to watch with a few exceptions.

In the NBA, the Western Conference is head and shoulders above the Eastern Conference. The Leastern conference will almost surely put at least one team into the playoffs with a losing record. In Major League Baseball, the American is considered far superior to the National League with the Sawx and Yanks' absured payrolls serving as a nice microcosm of the difference between the two leagues. And in the NFL, the winner of the AFC was a seven-point favorite over the NFC champ no matter who made it from either conference.

And it seems every time a trade is made or a free agent is signed, the better conference only gets deeper. Recent examples include AI getting shipped to Denver or, on a smaller scale, JD Drew inking a high-paying deal with the Sawx.

Why, though? Why is there such a disparity between the two in all three major sports? It really doesn't seem to make sense; it's not like one side of the league plays with different rules (well, besides the DH) or are given any type of favorable treatment, like better draft positions or more a higher salary cap. I guess in the NBA you could say the nicer weather may play a factor (who the hell wants to willingly sign to play in New Jersey or Toronto?), althought the Clippers sucked for the longest time, and LA seems to be a prime locale. The location thing doesn't really work for the NFL or MLB, though, so I think that's out.

What it comes down to, I think, is strategy. I have not had the good fortune of running my own franchise, but I would imagine the strategy is something along the lines of "let's build a team that can win our conference and then get into The Finals/World Series/Super Bowl where anything can happen and we only have to beat one team." This is why one conference is always dominant and the other always seems light years behind. Teams from the crappy side of the league are only concerned about the other crappy teams they have to beat to get to their championship round, and in just the past sports year, it's proven to be a pretty sound strategy.

The Cardinals came out of the National League, which was dubbed AAAA for the entire season, but they still won the World Series. If they were in the AL all season, they wouldn't have even made the playoffs. The Heat would never have made it out of the Western Conference playoffs - they needed an easy Eastern Conference schedule to let Shaq coast for the entire regular season and chunks of the playoffs, too. But once they got to the Finals, Shaq could ramp it up (and the refs could begin their undying love affair with D. Wade) and they pulled off the upset. And the Bears nearly beat the Colts; a break or two here or there and they easily could have left Miami with the Lombardi Trophy.

(This is why I think conferences in professional sports are so stupid. Everyone can play eachother. Why can't we just take the best teams? Its so dumb when a team with a good record is left out over a team with a worse record just because they play in a crappier conference. OK, maybe this doesnt make sense for football, necessarily, but it definitely holds up for the NBA and MLB.)

So why is conference dominance so cyclical then? Like in the NFL, the AFC has won 8 out of the last 10 Super Bowls, but before that, the NFC was kicking their ass up and down the field for a decade. Why does it change?

I can't be positive, but I think it is when a team from the crappy conference catches lighting in a bottle. One team, for whatever reason - the draft, free agency, whatever - suddenly becomes the best team in the entire league. Now the whole conference has to rethink how they can get to the championship, and the power shifts.

I could easily see this happening with the Saints, as soon as next year. They have a young, talented offense and possibly the most versatile weapon in the league. They could easily shift things. LeBron could do this in Cleveland, too, if they would surround him with any semblance of talent at all (actually, screw a supporting "cast" - just get him one other good player, please). I don't know how this could happen in baseball...maybe the Cubs $300 million dollar spending spree will payoff and Kerry Wood and Mark Prior will miraculously heal and turn in 20-win performances.

I have no idea if this is right or wrong or even close to making sense, but I really wanted to know why one conference always sucks and why one is always great and I sat down and thought for ten minutes and this is what I came up with. Thoughts?

0 comments so far. Might as well add your own.: