The 20 Most Annoying Debates in Sports
We like to argue. We’re sports fans.
It’s in our blood, just like Dexter Morgan’s Dark Passenger. We hear Stephen A./Skip Bayless/random fan on the street make a claim we vehemently disagree with, and the unstoppable need to debate and berate bubbles within us.
Our need to debate can’t be tamed,but that doesn't mean that it isn't annoying.
Sports arguments are inherently infuriating. They keep you up at night, and they make you question your relationships with the most important people in your life. How can you remain friends with someone who chooses LeBron over MJ? Or someone who believes in the BCS over the playoff system? Or someone who thinks golf or NASCAR requires athleticism?
But knowing that these debates are annoying doesn’t mean they're going to stop anytime soon. In fact, the more annoying, the longer the shelf life.
Here’s a list of the 20 most annoying debates in sports. Read at the risk of your own blood pressure.
20. Tim Tebow Could Be One of the Best QBs in the NFL
When the words "debate" and "annoying" are involved, Tim Tebow is usually a good place to start.
There has never been a player who has been so widely revered and lionized despite accomplishing so very little (but don’t worry, RGIII is on his way).
Tebow was a great college quarterback. But so was Matt Leinart. These days, Matt Leinart's biggest life accomplishment is breaking up Jemily.
Tebow did a nice job leading the Denver Broncos back from the dead in the second half of last season. But of the six consecutive teams he beat, not a single one of them finished with a record above .500.
People like Tebow’s story, and many of them like his “wholesomeness” and his message. But they want to believe that he could be great more than the evidence actually suggests that this is true.
Tebow is treated like a prodigy who’s been unfairly relegated to the bench despite leading his team to a Super Bowl victory; in reality, he’s a third-year quarterback with less than one full season of starting experience who played a decent stretch of games against a lot of really bad teams.
19. Race-Car Driving Requires No Athleticism
OK, so there aren’t any balls involved in NASCAR or F1. And there’s not really any running or other discernible athletic activity, aside from sitting in a car and driving it. In fact, objectively, it may seem that more athleticism is required of the pit crew than is required of the actual drivers.
But just because it doesn’t look like a sport—at least of the traditional variety—doesn’t mean it isn’t one. It’s on ESPN; it draws a pretty substantial audience in certain parts of the world; there have even been plenty of studies conducted on how much athleticism it takes to drive one of those cars.
In 2008, Wired's Kristen Philipkoski wrote:
Unless you've trained your heart like a distance runner, built your muscles like a football player and conditioned your body to withstand 150-degree heat, you'd probably kill yourself and several bystanders by the third turn.
The verdict is, the Danicas and the Jimmie Johnsons of the world are, in fact, athletes. Sorry, Golden Tate. You’re alone on this one.
18. The Patriots Didn’t Deserve to Win Super Bowl XXXVI
The tuck rule. The infamous tuck rule, the most serendipitous stroke of luck in New England Patriots history. The tuck rule is what began Tom Brady’s quest toward becoming a legend; it began the Patriots' recent stretch of dominance; it led to the Patriots’ first Super Bowl victory over the Rams.
Yet people like to say that the Patriots never should have made it to Super Bowl XXXVI. Whatever Tom Brady did in the waning minutes of New England's divisional playoff game against the Raiders should have been called a fumble, and Oakland should have been the team to move on.
But that’s not the way it happened. The Patriots may have gotten a little bit of luck there, courtesy of the infamous tuck rule, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they went on to become the best team in football for two of the next three years. That doesn’t take away the fact that Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
Tuck rule or no tuck rule, Brady and the Pats were good enough to be deserving of their first Super Bowl victory, and of the next two thereafter. That many seasons of straight-up dominance isn’t luck.
17. The DH Should Be Abolished
American League fans draw ire when they criticize the fact that pitchers hit over yonder in the National League; National League fans are similarly ridiculed by AL fans when they question the necessity of the DH.
We all get the fact that having the pitchers hit is old-timey and classic and it hearkens back to the days in which baseball was pure and good. But having pitchers hit is also silly, dangerous and counterproductive to pitchers who actually want to perform well on the mound.
It gives them another (annoying) thing to think about, and can you name one pitcher who’s actually been competent enough at the plate to make any substantial impact?
Furthermore, there have been too many hitting-related freak injuries to pitchers—oblique injuries while swinging, hamstring injuries while trying to beat out a grounder to first—to suggest that this is still a good idea. It hurts pitchers, physically and on their stat lines.
The DH hurts no one, and fans love seeing guys like David Ortiz (of yesteryear) crush the ball. Nobody would really miss seeing Barry Zito send a weak dribbler to the mound. And undoubtedly, Barry Zito would love to have that responsibility scratched from his personal docket.
16. Running Quarterbacks Work in the NFL
Perhaps someday, one of them will prove us wrong. Perhaps a few years from now, Robert Griffin III will be so formidable and so dangerous that we’ll all wonder why we didn’t believe in the power of the running quarterback.
But for now, the trends don’t lie: Very few running quarterbacks are able to achieve long-term success in the NFL.
Sometimes it’s because they become too worn down by injuries, especially concussions. Sometimes it’s because when they get to the NFL, they find that their passing game is too weak or under-developed to be effective, and they wind up relying too heavily on the run—which, again, leaves them far more vulnerable to injury.
We love dual-threat QBs because their skills sets seem far more dynamic and exciting than your average run-of-the-mill gunslinger. But isn’t it also possible that dual-threat QBs rely far too much on themselves and don’t utilize their teammates as effectively as traditional QBs?
As of now, Michael Vick has been the NFL’s most successful running quarterback. He’s on the verge of getting benched in favor of a rookie. So there’s that.
15. Tiger Woods Should Be Judged for His Ridiculous Personal Life
The world really turned fast on Tiger Woods when he suffered his...personal misfortunes back in 2009. He lost some endorsements, he lost his reputation and some of us have never looked at him the same since.
But…why? Why does Tiger’s—or any athlete’s—personal life have any bearing on their performance on the field/court/course? Sure, he may be a bit of a screw-up behind closed doors, but that is the joy of professional sports: There is no Us Weekly of the NFL or NBA or PGA. We don’t know what these guys are like when they're not at work, nor should we care.
We’re supposed to care about how well they do their jobs, and just because Tiger has no concept of fidelity doesn’t make him a bad golfer. A bad role model, possibly—but there’s no reason we should be modeling our lives after those of multi-billion dollar celebs, anyway.
Lance Armstrong deserved to lose his endorsements. He cheated. He’s a fraud. Tiger may be a moral cesspool, but so are a lot of normal, non-famous people. He’s still a pretty good golfer. That's what we should care about.
14. Bountygate Doesn’t Matter Because Every Team Does It
In the aftermath of the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal—in which the league discovered players were being paid for registering hits that knocked opposing players out of games—there was an abundance of controversy that still hasn’t died down.
While some players were horrified at the sound of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams telling his players, “Kill the head and the body will die,” others claimed that the things the Saints were doing isn’t all that uncommon in the NFL. Others claimed that Williams’ words were just that—words—and they shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Not to quote my first-grade teacher, but if everyone jumps off a bridge, does that mean you should do it, too? Particularly in light of the abundance of information linking football and concussions to long-term health problems, scandals like the one afflicting the Saints are a huge problem, and the NFL has no choice but to deal with them accordingly.
It doesn’t matter how serious Williams, or any other coach, intends to be; football isn’t supposed to be a life or death situation, and encouraging knock-out hits makes it one.
13. Offense vs. Defense
Some sports fans claim that the best offenses can triumph over the best defenses. Mostly, this applies to football. They say that some quarterbacks just cannot be stopped, no matter how solid an opposing defense has proven to be.
But there has just been too much evidence to suggest that defense will always, always trump offense. It’s no longer a debate. Look at the way the NFL playoffs ended last season. Arguably, the two best offensive teams, and thus the favorites to win, were the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots. Though their offenses ranked atop the league, their defenses ranked last and second-to-last, respectively.
Incidentally, the Packers got knocked out of the playoffs in their first and only game, and the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to that same team a couple of weeks later. You can keep Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. I’ll take a solid D any day.
12. The Validity of Preseason Polls
"Snub" and "preseason poll" don't even belong in the same sentence.
There is no bigger waste of time in the sports universe than the time NCAA coaches spend casting their votes for football/basketball/anyball preseason polls.
In the best case, coaches are offering their honest opinions based on the way the offseason has treated last year’s best teams. In the worst case, coaches are voting for themselves (hi, Lane Kiffin!), voting for last year’s best teams or voting for the same five or six teams that were good 20-30 years ago but have been terrible for the better part of the last decade.
Yet for some reason, people still put stock in the preseason polls. There is nothing remotely objective or intuitive when it comes to preseason rankings. Teams do absolutely nothing to earn them. It would’ve been like ranking Barack Obama as the best president in history before he took office.
The bottom line: Nobody should care enough about preseason polls to feel snubbed.
11. Nobody Cares About the NHL Because ESPN Doesn’t Cover It
Die-hard NHL fans have long claimed that ESPN doesn’t offer enough coverage of the NHL. It spends more than considerable time on the other three major sports, plus college football and college basketball.
There’s even a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg situation surrounding the network and the sport: Is the NHL unpopular because ESPN doesn’t cover it, or does ESPN avoid covering it because it’s unpopular?
Well…people loved baseball and football before ESPN existed. And the Worldwide Leader doesn’t cover a ton of soccer, but that seems to have its fair share of fans, even in the U.S. There’s also the fact that televising professional hockey is much more difficult than televising any of the other major sports, so the viewing experience simply isn’t as good.
There are plenty of NHL fans. They know where to watch hockey. The NHL isn’t dying (or at least, it wasn’t before the lockout) and it’s simply inaccurate to say that nobody cares about it. Is it as popular as the NBA or the NFL? Well…at least where I live, when the Bruins are about a game away from winning the Stanley Cup, people start to care. You'd never be able to say that about the Celtics or the Red Sox.
ESPN can’t make people care about hockey, even if it covers the sport 24/7. By that logic, ESPN could also make Americans care about cricket. It’s not the network’s fault that people like what they like.
Also, maybe if there wasn't a lockout every seven years, the NHL could maintain it's fan base. Can't blame that on ESPN.
10. Roger Clemens Still Deserves to Be in the Hall of Fame
This isn’t restricted to Roger Clemens. It applies to any superstar who’s been dragged through a PED scandal and is still being discussed as a future member of the Hall.
The details of Clemens’ PED case are still sketchy. The Mitchell Report quite clearly stated that Clemens was a steroid abuser, yet Clemens repeatedly denied those claims in court—and then a federal jury acquitted him of six felony charges after his perjury trial.
The jury is still out, so to speak, but it’s hard to believe that all of the information from that infamous 2007 report was fabricated. If it wasn’t, Clemens used and somehow fleeced the legal system. And if he did use—which, let’s face it, he probably did, given all of the evidence and testimony against him—it’s crazy to think he still deserves a spot in Cooperstown.
Clemens may have once been one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, but he cheated to get there, plain and simple. If you don’t play by the rules, you don’t get the glory. There are plenty of pitchers who have had Hall of Fame-worthy careers and didn’t cheat to get there.
9. The Dynasty Debate
I had the pleasure of watching the Notre Dame-Oklahoma game in the company of several Domers, and during it, a ND friend of mine took that opportunity to reveal an apparently long-standing beef with me: My response to the Irish’s 2005 T-shirt proclaiming “Putting the NASTY in DYNASTY” was, “What dynasty?”
Nothing gets a fan fired up like questioning whether or not his or her team can officially be classified as a dynasty. Let’s use Notre Dame as our example: The Irish have 11 championships to their name, which is undoubtedly impressive. But a dynasty insinuates that the same team keeps winning and winning, year after year after year. The Irish won seven in 25 years. Is that somewhat dominant? Yes. Is that a dynasty? I’d argue no.
Pittsburgh Steelers fans and New England Patriots fans also love to engage in this debate. The Patriots won three in four years; That’s a little bit closer to a dynasty, but still not quite. The Steelers won four from 1974-79; there, you have something approaching a dynasty.
The Lakers from 1979-89 are also dynasty. So were the Montreal Canadiens, who won five championships in five seasons from 1956-1960, and the 1957-1969 Celtics.
Dynasties are just a fancy way for overzealous fans to say, “We’re way better than you.” But seriously, just say, “We’re way better than you.” Because more often than not—unless you’ve won three or four rings in a row—you’re not there yet.
8. The Falcons—or Any Other Team—Will Go Undefeated
The jig is up. It’s been 40 years, and no team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins has managed to go undefeated throughout the entirety of an NFL season. Still, we can’t help ourselves: Every time a team starts off a season 5-0, 6-0, 7-0, we all start asking, What if?
We all know the 2007 Patriots came the closest, and we know how that ended. We know that the Packers went 13-0 in 2011 before losing to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs and then failing to advance in the postseason.
What does that tell us? Going undefeated doesn’t matter. We’ve seen some of the greatest teams of the last few decades fail to do so, and we’ve seen teams that have lost seven games in a season win the Super Bowl. Are the Falcons going to go undefeated? Probably not. And even if they have a perfect regular season, are they going to win the Super Bowl? Probably not.
Good teams learn from their losses. I’m not saying undefeated teams aren’t good, but they never get that all-important how-to-bounce-back lesson.
Worrying about a perfect record and a perfect season is a waste of energy and a perilous distraction; just ask Bill Belichick.
7. Player X Is a Bum Because He’s Overpaid
As a lifelong J.D. Drew apologist (yes, such a thing exists!), this is one debate that personally rocks my nerves. We shall use J.D. as our example here, but insert any allegedly overpaid player of your choice.
Throughout his career, but particularly at the end of it, people gave J.D. a lot of baloney because they said he wasn’t anywhere near as good as his bloated five-year, $70 million contract with the Boston Red Sox suggested. But let’s say someone called you up and said, “I would like to pay you $14 million per year to come play a game in an awesome city where the ballpark is guaranteed to fill to capacity every night.”
I’m going out on a limb and saying it’s unlikely you’d respond with, “Can we knock it down to $6 or $7 million a year? Because objectively, that’s probably closer to what I’m worth.”
J.D. probably got paid too much (though I’d venture to say his 2007 ALCS grand slam justified his entire five-year payday). But don’t blame that on J.D. Blame it on the idiot GM who agreed to pay that much money for him. And for John Lackey. And for Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. And for Daisuke freaking Matsuzaka.
Also, nobody goes on national television and talks to the world about how bad you are at your job. So until then, simmer down. That occupational hazard in itself entitles these athletes to a few extra bucks.
6. Who Are the NFL’s Elite Quarterbacks?
Once upon a time, it was only Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. These days, it’s Brady vs. Manning vs. The Other Manning vs. Aaron Rodgers vs. Maybe Drew Brees.
There’s no good way to determine which players should be included in the esteemed Elite QB category. Well, actually, there is a really good way—rings—but Joe Flacco isn’t interested in that method.
First of all, most fans want to believe that whoever quarterbacks their team is one of the elites. It’s human nature. For a while, even Tony Romo and Mike Vick fans have tried to claim that they were elite.
Secondly, there are a few truly excellent quarterbacks in the NFL, and the list fluctuates from year to year. Some guys get injured, some get old, some retire, some young guys finally find their ways and come into their own.
But for now, there are six. They are the only six to have won Super Bowls within the last 10 years, excepting Brad Johnson because, hello, fluke. Three of those quarterbacks have won more than once, and the other three are likely to win again before their careers are over. You know who they are.
They’ve led their teams to championships, and not one of those six championship winners was a fluke. There’s no better way to determine which ones are the best of the best, plain and simple.
And no, Flacco is not one of them.
5. College Athletes Should Be Paid
Because college athletes bring in so much revenue for their universities, some believe they should be compensated for their efforts. Some believe they should at least get a cut of what the university makes on jersey and paraphernalia sales. Technically, these athletes are amateurs, but some think they function as professionals and they should be compensated as such. Schools like Alabama, Notre Dame, USC and more make far too much money off football, especially, to justify the fact that athletes don’t get paid.
Except … they do get paid. They get scholarships—full academic scholarships—that allow them to go to college free of charge, live free of charge and eat free of charge, in most cases. Not to get too preachy, here, but lots of people can’t afford an education, and if someone told them that they could get a degree for free if they put on a uniform once or twice a week, it’s safe to say they’d be OK with it.
Plus, universities can’t start paying some athletes and not others. If they’re going to pay their football and basketball players, they have to pay the field hockey players, the lacrosse players, the sailors…the list goes on. That amounts to a whole lot of money, and it’s doubtful that the cross country team brings in the same kind of revenue as the football team.
Scholarships seem like a fair trade-off.
4. Alabama Could Beat the Cleveland Browns Right Now
There are numerous variations of this debate. One more: Last year’s Kentucky team could’ve beaten the Charlotte Bobcats. Some fans believe that the best college teams have enough talent, experience and stamina to contend with the guys who get paid to do this for a living.
In truth, the best team in the history of college football would lose to the worst team in NFL history by 30 points. The two just aren’t comparable. It’s apples and oranges. It’s Bieber vs. Paul McCartney. Think about how many years some of the Browns have been playing in the NFL. Think about what they spend their days doing: studying film. Training. Eating, sleeping and breathing football.
College kids don’t have those resources, they don’t have the experience and quite frankly, most of them are not yet not built like the pros.
Pros know how to compete in games because it’s their job. Pros are bigger, faster, stronger and smarter because their jobs depend on it. For college kids—no matter how talented they are—it’s a hobby.
3. The BCS vs. the Playoff
There have always been a plethora of problems with the BCS system. Undefeated teams outside of the four or five major conferences rarely get rewarded for their efforts to the tune of a national championship. There has even been talk of legal action against the BCS: Some believe that the major conferences have a monopoly on the top-tier bowl games—and thus, larger payouts—while lesser programs are excluded from the excitement, and, of course, from the money.
Something tells me this debate is going to continue to rage on, despite the fact that a playoff system is already in place for 2014 and beyond. The playoff system still favors the major conferences, for one thing, and excellent teams are still going to get robbed of the postseason opportunities their fans think they deserve.
The moral of the story is, there are too many good college football teams, and there isn’t enough time or money or something to give them all the chance to compete for the national championship. So until a presidential oversight committee approves a March Madness-style football tournament…let the annoyance rage on. This debate will never, ever die.
Jordan vs. LeBron
There is no debate that is more annoying simply because there never has been, and never will be, any comparison between the two.
There’s no question that fans love watching LeBron James. He is, without a doubt, one of the most athletic, versatile, scintillating players in the NBA. He certainly has the potential to take a game over and put on a one-man show to win, as we saw during last year’s Eastern Conference finals.
But LeBron has won one NBA title. One. Until about six months ago, people called him one of the biggest choke artists/underachievers/scapegoats in the NBA. Now, after one NBA title, he’s on par with—perhaps even better than—Michael Jordan, the greatest player of all time? Come on.
Last week, as a guest on The B.S. Report, former Net/Celtic/Bull Brian Scalabrine told Bill Simmons that the difference between LeBron and MJ is simple: When Jordan was on the court, nobody even wanted to look him in the eye. That was how scary he was, how respected he was.
LeBron just isn’t there—certainly not now, probably not ever.
Plus, two words: the decision. End of story.
1. People Care Too Much About Sports
Um…No, they don’t.
Sports bring cities, nations and the world together. Look at what happens during the Olympics: Literally, it gives the entire universe a common cause to get excited about, and it’s one that doesn’t involve politics or wars or anything bad. Sports give people something they can universally enjoy.
People can’t ever really explain why they care so much if their team advances to the Final Four, or if Michael Phelps wins 19 Olympic medals, but it’s fun to care that much about something. It’s fun to feel like part of team, even when you’re just watching from afar. And contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with fun.
The reason people allow themselves to get so invested and so emotionally-involved in sports is because at least subconsciously, they realize that there aren’t any consequences. This isn’t like caring too much about the outcome of the election, where if your candidate loses, you have to seriously evaluate whether or not you can continue to live in this country. Sports allegiances are all in the name of fun and there are no serious consequences. It’s not life or death. There aren’t any crucial, long-lasting implications of sports fandom. It’s fun, and it fires you up, and it doesn’t require war or hunger strikes or debates on MSNBC.
Getting overly invested in sports is just about the healthiest thing you can get overly invested in.