Imperfections Make Sports Perfect

           By Paul Seyferth, section10

          In the 2001 MLB playoffs, the New York Yankees defeated the Oakland Athletics in the American League Division Series. Coming into the series, these 2 teams looked pretty even. In fact, the A’s won more games than the Yankees during the regular season. The main difference wasn’t one seen on the field, though, it was in the payroll. The A’s were the second poorest team in baseball, spending a total of 33 million dollars that year on their team. The Yankees, on the other hand, spent 109 million, making them the wealthiest.

How can an organization be expected to compete when they are spending not even a third as much as some other teams? More importantly, how is this allowed?

Unknown-1  Last week, our discussion class reviewed the case of Caster Semenya. We went back and forth about whether or not she should be able to compete in the women division, given her abnormally high testosterone levels for a woman. The main argument of one side was that every special athlete has abnormalities, and there should be no reason to punish him or her for it. Michael Phelps is not punished for being double jointed, the same way Bubba Watson is not punished for being able to bomb his driver further than other golfers.

Team sports are no different. All teams have unique attributes that can give them advantages and disadvantages. If you are the Seattle Seahawks, you have the advantage of a deafening home crowd. Boise State football plays on blue turf, which can take away teams out of their comfort zone due to the abnormality. In the case of the 2001 Yankees, they had the advantage of being richer than all the other teams.

The Blue Turf

                      Boise’s Blue Turf

Earlier this year, we read the Melian Dialogue, which illustrated the differences between the Melians and Athenians, or more vaguely, the strong and the weak. The Athenians tried to persuade the Melians to surrender to them, given the fact that Athens was easily stronger and able to crush Melia. In the opinion of the Athenians, this was a pointless battle to fight, because it was pretty obvious who was going to win. The Melians, on the other hand, had no intentions of giving up. Rather than accept defeat, the Melians knew they had a small chance of surviving the fight, and decided to role the dice.

In reality, there is no realistic way to level the playing field.  But in my opinion, there is no need to. I guess you could say I take a “Melian” approach towards the way I view sports. Though the Oakland A’s were obviously much weaker on paper coming in to the season, they fought their way through and gave the richest team in baseball a run for their money.

In my opinion, unevenness is what makes sports so great. The “David verses Goliath” match ups create real excitement. The Kansas City Royals have not made the playoffs in 27 years. Growing up a Tiger fan, the Royals were always the team at the bottom of the division that no one had to worry about. This year, the Royals snagged the wild card

Salvador Perez, star catcher for the Royals

Salvador Perez, star catcher for the Royals

and ran through the American League playoffs en route to the World Series without losing a game. I cannot imagine the excitement a Royals fan must have experienced these last few weeks (probably the same excitement I’d have if the Lions ever did something similar). The whole country seemed to be in support of the Royals this year. Everyone was rooting for the underdog.

To me, the story of the Royals is what makes sports so special. Their natural disadvantage of historically being bad made their triumph even sweeter. They are the prime example that natural advantages and disadvantages are always going to be part of sports, but that doesn’t mean they define them. The true quality of sports comes from what happens on the field, not on a payroll. Sports should remain untouched, and we should continue rooting for the underdog.

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4 thoughts on “Imperfections Make Sports Perfect

  1. I completely agree with your post, and you have a viewpoint that (at least in my section) was not touched on. I not only appreciate the sentiment that it is impossible to level out the playing field, but that it would be unjust to. Your example of the 2001 Yankees matchup is perfect; you talk about their advantage and possibility of being defeated despite their advantage. To make your argument more convincing, I’d suggest talking about a time in which an advantaged team/player actually lost, but I still think you had a very effective post. Good job!

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  2. I loved reading your blog! (And not just because I am also a Tigers fan)
    I completely agree with all of your points, and I too, take a “Melian” approach to this topic, as I think more people should.
    There was another point that was brought up in my discussion that I think would tie well into your blog.
    We spoke about how players were raised and how they got to be where they are today. This is a point that adds to the list of “unleveling the playing field”.
    Some professional athletes were raised in poor neighborhoods, lacking proper sports equipment and opportunities to succeed. Other professional athletes were raised in the wealthiest areas, with the more advanced sports equipment, flooded with dozens of opportunities. If people want to play the “fair card”, is this a factor to take into account?
    I don’t think so and after reading your blog, I don’t think you do either.
    I do think it is an interested curve ball to throw into the discussion though.

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  3. Dear Paul,

    I loved reading this article. Not only was it well written but it made clear the interest in sports regarding an uneven playing field. Underdogs are exciting and thats the point of sports.

    One thing. I would say you take the Athenian View regarding your position. The Melians were aware of the risk and rolled the dice, but that wasn’t their choice. The Athenians were the ones with the perfect imperfections that made them able to impose their will.

    The question still remains; if the imperfections are great in sports, can that also be applied to warfare?

    Again, great post
    -Jacob Byrnes

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  4. Paul, I like how in this post you tied in a reading we did from way back early on in the semester with the Melian Dialogue. Most people just connect their blog posts with more recent readings, and though you did that with the Caster Semaya topic, you also went back to the Melian Dialogue which was good, and helped your point. I also agree with you point that we should not have everyone play on the exact same level in sports. In my opinion, having a difference of skill levels is what makes sports fun. If every team was the same skill level, games would always be close and therefore exciting, but you would never get the thrill of an underdog who was expected to lose big coming out of nowhere to win. The most exciting stories in sports are the underdogs who win, the George Masons and Butlers in the NCAA Tournament, the Giants beating the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. That’s what we remember about sports, because America loves an underdog story, ever since we were underdogs in the Revolutionary War.

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