Before we get to a discussion of the baseball's wild card and the success of NFL quarterbacks from off-the-beaten-path schools, a moment of silence is in order for Rodney Dangerfield, who passed away Tuesday. The man was pure comic genius.
Since this is a sports column it is worth noting that, not only did Dangerfield star in "Caddyshack" – as good a sports movie as has ever been made – but he pulled off the greatest athletic movie scene of all time in "Back To School."
With his son's college dive team on the ropes, Dangerfield's Thorton Melon shook off a 40-year retirement to nail the death-defying "Triple Lindy," winning the meet and Sally Kellerman in the process.
Now that was movie magic.
So, for no other reason than as a way of honoring him, we will provide classic Rodney one-liners (in italics, as usual) instead of answers to your letters. Now on to The People's Voice …
THE WILD CARD ("A wild success" September 29, 2004)
Kudos to you on your kudos to Commissioner Selig. The man does not have a commanding public presence and occasionally he seems lost (the All-Star Game fiasco). Until now, I have not seen him receive much praise in the public eye. However, the changes he has instituted come from the heart of a true baseball fan with a strong desire to strengthen the game, a task at which he has succeeded. Well done, Commish.
"My psychiatrist told me I was crazy. I told him I want a second opinion. He said, 'Okay you're ugly too.'"
Your celebration of the wild card races is the epitome of shallow thinking. Yes, this year's wild card races are exciting, but at what cost? The wild card strips the game of the fundamental source of its drama – pennant races. As Bob Costas notes, even with the two-division format, the races still maintained their form (read his book if you want a real analysis of the costs and benefits of the wild card).
Baseball isn't like other sports, because it takes time for a team to prove itself worthy of a championship. Wanting to see deserving teams get rewarded for their excellence hardly qualifies as having your head in the sand.
"I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous – everyone hasn't met me yet."
You were dead-on in your article about the wild-card. No question that its existence livens up September. To those "baseball purists" who bemoan the wild-card as cheapening the postseason, consider the other major sports and the number of teams that qualify for the postseason: 16 teams in hockey, eight in football, etc.
Getting in as the non-division winner with the best record in the league is no small accomplishment.
"I tell you, this steak still has marks where the jockey was hitting it."
Every single owner except for one voted to expand the playoffs and add the wild card.
The sole dissenter was George W. Bush, owner of the Texas Rangers. He said that history would prove that his vote was the smart one.
"I went to a freak show and they let me in for nothing."
As a Red Sox fan, most people believe that I must love the wild card, because it has put the Red Sox in the playoffs four times. Wrong!
Consider this: The wild card system has produced not one World Series appearance for my beloved Sox, but it has delivered a world title to Anaheim and two (TWO!) to Miami, which doesn't have one-tenth the passion Boston has for its baseball team!
"What a dog I got; his favorite bone is in my arm."
Regarding your column about the wild card in MLB – it has rendered the postseason meaningless to me. It is ludicrous to have a team that finishes 15 games out of first have a chance to be world champions.
Excellence in baseball is determined over the course of a long season. Any team can beat any other team in a short series.
My suggestion is make the wild card play every game on the road and win four out of five or six out of seven.
What a dog I got; he found out we look alike, so he killed himself.
If you want another tier of playoffs, create four divisions and have four winners. Make the regular season mean something. If you must have the wild card, then the wild card should get no first round home games or maybe just one. This makes winning the division a priority and a considerable advantage.
"My uncle's dying wish was to have me sit in his lap. He was in the electric chair."
Impossible to not agree with the wild card adding all that it has to the playoffs.
One problem I see with it in the current form is the weighted divisional schedules (interleague is great for the fans so I'll not touch that). First, each division needs to have the same number of teams. Next, teams need to play the league to justify the wild card as legitimately representing the "fourth" best team.
Besides, before the divisional weighted schedules, we college kids could catch a Friday night game at Busch, afternoon at Wrigley then over to Comisky that night, up to Milwaukee the next day and, one time, the Twins that night. These little road trips just don't happen because teams are too busy playing each other.
"I met the surgeon general - he offered me a cigarette."
NFL STARTING QBS ("Pedigree doesn't matter" October 4, 2004)
Good point about the quarterbacks coming from minor conferences. These QBs are mostly slow guys with good arms. The only major college team to have a sophisticated enough passing offense for these guys was Miami (Kelly, Kosar, etc). Now we see more running back/scamperers/short-passers. Great for college but not for the pros.
"My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met."
I personally believe that lesser schools actually play better football. I often enjoy a Division I-AA or D-II game more than a game involving BCS conference teams. I wish that the networks could believe some of us.
"My wife made me join her bridge club - I jump next Tuesday."
Your theories about NFL quarterbacks are interesting, but I think you need look no further than (Bob Pruett's) quote – at Marshall; they need a great quarterback because their offense lives and dies by the pass.
Many small schools – probably because they have trouble recruiting big offensive linemen and have relatively weak defensive personnel – rely on speedy receivers and great quarterbacks in an attempt simply to outscore the opponent in a shootout.
I would bet most of your starting running backs are from the big BCS schools, where you're more likely to see balanced, ball-control offense and teams that can win games with their defense.
"She was so ugly, the last time I saw a mouth like that it had a hook in it."
I don't care how many small college QBs are starting in the NFL; it's absurd to make BCS-type comparisons between members of the SEC (or any other major conference) and Boise State (or any other flavor of the day in the past spirit of Tulane). They would lose to the top six teams in that conference 99 times out of 100.
It's terrific that small schools can churn out quality NFL signal-callers. But let's hold our horses on using that as a way of suggesting they are ready for a New Year's showdown with Oklahoma or Miami or Georgia. It's just not reality.
"I looked up my family tree and found three dogs using it."