Before television became widespread, very few people, namely sportswriters and a couple of die-hard fans, watched enough sporting events to make an informed and intelligent decision about who was the best at a particular sport. However, with the advent of television, cable, satellites, VCRs, DVRs, and TIVO, many sports fans now have that capability.
A serious sports fan can watch more games or matches than sportswriters in the first half of the 20th Century and just as many as sportswriters today. So, to let only sportswriters and sportscasters vote for sports awards and not let the serious fans of a particular sport vote does not seem fair.
Now, to be fair to sportswriters and sportscasters, they do have the slight advantage of speaking to more athletes and coaches than the rest of us. However, with the various pre-game shows, numerous SportsCenters throughout the day on ESPN, and talk-radio programs that now exist, the serious sports fans eventually hear a lot of what the athletes and coaches have to say about their sports and their athletes.
The main problem with having only the sportswriters and sportscasters vote is that the sample size is just too small. In the NBA, for example, only 125 people (excluding millions of knowledgeable basketball fans) vote for the MVP award and only 15 people (head coaches in their respective conferences) vote for the seven non-starting all-stars.
Well, everyone has their own personal likes, biases, and prejudices which inevitably affect their opinion on who is the best at something, sports or otherwise. The only way to counter this fact is to have a large number of people vote, so that the voters' personal likes, biases, and prejudices offset each other.
A good argument could be made that the players in a particular sport should do the voting for any awards or all-star selections, since they know better than anyone who are the best players or athletes in their sport. This falls short of being ideal, however, because the sample size would again be too small. Yet in some sports, having the players vote almost seems necessary for certain positions.
Take the offensive linemen in football, for example. I have no idea who is the best center in the NFL (it is just too difficult to isolate their performance in the middle of all those big bodies crashing into other in such a small space), and neither do you. However, if you polled just 224 individuals, namely the seven starting linemen and linebackers for the 32 NFL teams, I bet you would get an accurate answer.
So, other than this unique example, what is the best and fairest way to conduct polls for sports awards and all-star selections? I think it is to let everyone vote, including serious (ideally) fans, players, coaches, sportswriters, and sportscasters, which is what I have done with my site, UltimateSportsRankings.com.
I am hoping that with around 75 sports and more than 2,000 questions to choose from, people will concentrate on and ultimately, only answer the questions on which they have the most knowledge. This will increase the accuracy and insure the legitimacy of the voting/rankings.
I suppose the players' votes in a particular sport should count more (kinda like the NFL pro bowl selection -- which is a good system); however, this is technically not practical at this time.
With millions of people instead of 125 people voting, we will come as close as possible to officially settling all those sports debates that you have had and heard through the years. In addition, we will answer the current sports questions about who is the best or who had the best season. Let the debates begin!