Wednesday, January 5, 2011
The Seattle Seahawks are the first NFL team to make the playoffs despite a losing record. And that dubious achievement is rubbing some football fans the wrong way.
They contend, a team should have to earn a spot in the playoffs.
Well, the Seahawks did earn the playoff spot. They won their division -- albeit a really lousy division -- by defeating the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
No, it's not a perfect system. Still, it's better than most in professional sports (outside of baseball, where only the very best teams qualify for the post season). And let's not forget that the 7-9 Seahawks are the only team with a losing record to ever qualify for the NFL playoffs.
NBA teams routinely qualify for the playoffs with losing records. More pro basketball teams make the playoffs than don't. The NBA has 30 teams and 16 make the playoffs. Now that's ridiculous.
Unfortunately, this low threshold to qualify for post-season play has become part of college, high school and youth sports. The rise in college football bowl games -- 35 this season -- has pretty much guaranteed that schools with 6-6 records will be bowl bound.
The University of Washington and its 6-6 record played the Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-3) in the Holiday Bowl. The Huskies had been trounced by the Huskers 56-21 earlier in the season, so it seemed as if the game would be a joke. It wasn't. The Huskies played with such fire and intensity that a casual viewer would have thought the UW was the team with the winning record. This type of outcome is the exception.
Generally, the doormats granted access to the playoffs are stomped on.
And when that happens it diminishes the worth of the regular season.
Perhaps it's a symptom of society's everybody-gets-a-trophy mentality. Or maybe, in the cases of college and pro sports, it's greed. Playoff and bowl games generate revenue.
The NFL is also looking to make money, but that's not behind the 7-9 Seahawks qualifying for the playoffs. It occurred only because the other three teams in Seattle's division, the NFC West, were even worse than the Seahawks. It's not something expected to happen, and it might never happen again.
The outraged critics of the Seahawks getting into a playoff game -- at home, no less -- need to lighten up.
And maybe the Seahawks will take a page or two from the UW Huskies' Holiday Bowl playbook and stick it to the World Champion New Orleans Saints this weekend. It's possible. After all, that's why they play the game.