15 "Shortlist" debates for a slow weekend
July is probably the slowest month of sports. Baseball hasn't reached the pennant race, the NHL and NBA have handed out their hardware, football is preparing for the preseason and golf, tennis, poker are all enjoying their little niches.
All discussion on sports sites like this is pretty much conjecture. Who's going to win and why, with most "experts" will wind up as accurate as any Joe Lunchbox.
Looking at my profile page, I saw the "Shortlist" debates on the left side of the screen and thought "Hmmm, I bet I could add a few." I thought about it for a little bit and voila - 15 "either/or" debates you can enjoy by yourself or with your friends at a Bar-B-Q.
The 2005 AL Pennant Race vs. the 1967 AL Pennant Race
In 1967, four teams went into the last week of the season not only in contention for the AL Pennant and the right to play the Cardinals in the World Series, they also played each other. Imagine being one of those teams, waiting for one of the others to fall down, only they don’t. Then looking at the schedule and seeing that there’s a mini-playoff to end it. When it was done, the Red Sox finished their Miracle Year by a game over both the Tigers and Twins, and 3.5 games over the Angels.
“Well, maybe if they had playoffs,” you’d say back then.
In 2005, they did. But that time, not only did all three divisions come down to the end of September, but after that, the Wild Card was still up for grabs between all three second-place teams. In Cleveland, where our young, soon-to-be-traded team was working on a masterful comeback against the White Sox, we had to root for the Yankees when they were in Chicago. While my Tribe and the A’s fell short, it was a wonderful ride for all six cities.
(Note: If you actually remember the 1967 race, PLEASE comment. I’d love to hear from you.)
‘70s Vikings vs. ‘90 Bills
Both lost four Super Bowls in an era dominated by the other conference. While Minnesota’s defense probably had the edge over Buffalo’s D, led by Bruce Smith, you’d probably have to take Jim Kelly’s offense over the Vikes.
Imagine both playing in Siberia. Or Jamaica. It’d still be interesting.
Bird/Magic vs. Chamberlain/Russell
This one flies in the face of my last article (which can use all the views it can get here), but in a way it doesn’t.
For roughly a decade, the NBA Finals came down to Russell's dense and supporting cast against Chamberlain’s one man dynamo. Only when Wilt got Hal Greer running shotgun did he finally beat Russell, then after Russell retired, Chamberlain went on to win again, although he was thwarted by Willis Reed in 1970.
When comparing that to Bird/Magic, you’ve got the option whether or not to include the college years or not. It definitely helps. But it doesn’t take away the fact that these were two players who resurrected the rivalry - and maybe the league, and took it to a different level.
Wrigley vs. Fenway
Both are by far the oldest cathedrals in the game. The teams that call these two parks home are integral parts of the hearts of baseball. And some may argue that both sets of inhabitants have the most self-serving fans this side of the Bronx.
Wrigley is a beautiful place. Symmetrical in shape, the ivy on the walls, the upper deck hanging gently down, it is one truly remarkable buildings in sports.
Then there’s Fenway, with its field shaped like a short “Tron” light cycle game, which led to the Green Monster being built. A true example of the game fitting in to its urban surroundings.
Canadiens vs. Yankees
Baseball in America without the Yankees is just like hockey in Canada without Les Habitants. Two stats separate these two national dynasties. The Yankees have retired 16 numbers (not including Jackie Robinson) and won 27 World Series titles. The Canadiens on the other hand, have won 24 Stanley Cups, and retired 17 numbers (not including Wayne Gretzky).
Yankee Stadium and Le Forum were cathedrals that won games by themselves.
Ruth/Gehrig/Domaggio/Mantle, or Richard/Beliveau/Lafleur/Gainey? New York gives you Yogi Berra and Thurman Munson. The Canadiens can offer Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy. Oh, and Georges Vezina, after whom the league named the trophy given to best goalie every year.
I know there’s going to be nationalism with this one pushing it towards baseball and the Yanks, but I dunno.
Marty Schottenheimer vs. Don Nelson
Don Nelson has over 1,300 wins in his career. As a coach, he has 29 seasons with four teams, 17 playoff appearances and a 0-0 record in the NBA Finals.
Marty Schottenheimer has coached four teams in the NFL for 20 seasons, has 12 playoff appearances and a similar 0-0 record in Super Bowls.
Both had distinctive styles of play on the field that deeply contrasted most other styles of the day.
"Martyball" ran it down your throat in an age of pass-happy offense, while Don Nelson ran his team with a high-paced offense in an age of defense. You can even compare Nelson’s year with the Knicks to Marty’s year in Washington.
Schottenheimer holds in edge in winning percentage, but then again, Nelson was able to lose two or three games and still advance in the post-season.
Bowling vs. Golf
White collar vs. blue collar. Indoor vs. outdoor. On the surface, these two seem to have nothing in common, except for beer. But look closer.
Both are almost recreational. Both require a lot of precision than most sports. You could easily overspend on both. Both have very, very quiet commentators on rainy Sunday afternoons. Golf may have Tiger, but bowling will forever have Chris Schenkel.
I think most people will lean towards golf, but I’d just like to see the margin of victory. After all, Mark Twain never referred to bowling as “a good way to spoil a good walk.”
Jim Brown vs. Jerry Rice
Pretty much the pillars of their respective eras, they are also - with little debate - the best ever at the two play-making positions on offense. Statistically, they are peerless, as most of their career records have a decent career between them and second place.
Okay, with Brown, you have to do some extrapolation, as he had to deal with a 12 and 14-game season, as well as retiring early. But even if you just give him a 16-game season, the numbers work to just over 15,000 yards. If he stayed on pace with just as many games as current leader Emmitt Smith played, he’d be right around 23,000 yards. Still a decent ways past Smith.
If you double the career touchdown numbers for Brown, you’d end up with the only challenger to Jerry Rice’s tough-to-reach TD mark. And that’s the only numerical comparison you can make.
There’s also another intangible number to all this. Brown is the Midwestern, bull-through running game prototype. Rice the epitome of the West Coast Offense. Brown left too soon, but did Rice hang on too long? Brown played in an area when players needed an off-season job, while Rice played against men who trained year-long.
Either way, you couldn’t lose with either one.
Jan. 1 Bowl Games vs. Opening Rounds of March Madness
Both are an excuse to staple your behinds to the couch from noon ‘til night. Obviously, both are
collegiate sports at their finest. And it seems like soon, both will have 64 teams playing in two days.
But, there are differences. First, January 1st games don’t see too many Cinderellas emerge, which can be a good or bad thing. Chances are better that you’re hung over when the Outback or Cotton bowls begin at 11 a.m., but you don’t have to worry about getting caught by the boss on an extended lunch or “sick day.”
While you give the edge to March Madness when it comes to filing out brackets versus filling out a long betting slip, the Jan. 1st bowls don’t have the lopsided, no-brainer 16 seed vs. 1 seed games.
Probably the biggest difference is New Year’s Day’s finality against the simple fact that Rounds 1 and 2 are the precursor to the Sweet Sixteen. All Jan. 1st does is warm you up for the BCS title game, which might be tainted with controversy anyway.
Billiards vs. Darts
A bar isn’t really complete without either of these two games, is it?
Billiards has always had its style. The “Bad to the Bone” video, “The Hustler.” Jeannette Lee. And while most stick with the simple Solids/Stripes format to the 8-ball, you can also play 9-ball, Cuthroat, etc…
But don’t count out darts. Aside from being the only game you can play with your beer actually in your hand, there’s Cricket, 501 and other variations just like “pool.”
“Major League” vs. “Bull Durham”
Settling this almost needs a “Tale of the Tape” series of sub-debates. Majors vs. Minors. Crash Davis vs. Jake Taylor. Lou Brown vs. the two headed management team of Trey Wilson and Robert Wuhl. Ricky Vaughn vs. Nuke LaLoosh. And don’t forget Susan Sarandon vs. Rene Russo. You can even debate which movie had better lines. Hell, both movies needed live chickens to reverse curses!
WSoP vs. UFC
On the surface, you’re thinking “Dude! WTF?!?” But in the past ten years, no two competitions have exploded onto the scene.
Texas Hold’Em has made stars out of Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Chris Ferguson, Greg Raymer, and the rags-to-riches “American Dream” of Chris Moneymaker.
Meanwhile, MMA has given us Chuck Lidell, Tito Ortiz, “Rampage” Jackson, Randy Couture, and Brock Lesnar.
Both have become something that TV cannot live without now. Every night, you’ll find at least one poker game on, while UFC events fill arenas and bars nationwide.
We watch, and we like to think we have the ability to take someone down like an MMA champion or the mental capacity to swindle someone out of money like a poker star.
Besides, how fast do you think you’d last in competition with either set of pros?
Curses vs. Fantasy Leagues
Both are signs that there are psychological fault lines within the sports fan's mind. So basically, I ask, which one’s worse?
First, you have curses, which explains why your team falls short year after year. Ignore the logical reasons like there’s only one title per year and 30-plus teams going for it. Nope. It’s gotta be something paranormal. A billy goat. A disgruntled former player. The ghost of the founder of the state. Even Australia’s “Socceroos” World Cup team paid a witch doctor to reverse one that was supposedly set by a witch doctor colleague in 1974.
Then you’ve got fantasy sports. While it’s a great time killer to imagine yourself as a GM mastermind, how much resources need to be spent running away from the reality that you’re not, and probably will never acquire or release one single player from any professional team - ever?
Plus, it divides loyalties. You’re a Falcons fan, but if Peyton Manning drives for a winning score against the your team, you yourself move to second place in your fantasy league! Is that a win-win, or a lose-lose?
Danica Patrick vs. Anna Kournikova
Both are smoking’ hot, their looks making them famous more than their performances in sport. You might give an edge to Patrick for actually winning a race, where Kournikova never won a singles tourney. But open-wheel racing never had doubles, where Anna won 16 tournaments, including two Australian Opens.
Anna never did GoDaddy.com commercials. But again, you gentlemen might prefer blondes.
Wings vs. Pizza
You can’t really share a wing, but there’s something wrong with you if you don’t share a pizza.
Pizza - “Iron Chef” aside - only comes with one sauce, while you can order 20 sauces on your wings, which don’t have toppings like pizza should.
You might order both for the big game, and both might come from the same place, but one simple question might answer this one for everyone: If there’s an untouched pizza and plate of wings on the table at kickoff, which one do you go for first?
The Swedish Bikini Team vs. the Jamaican Bobsled Team
One more...just for fun.
These two “Bush 41”-era phenomena are the penultimate concepts of doing something out of your element. Sweden is cold. Do they even have beaches? And the Jamaican Bobsled team…I don’t need to explain that.
But they were fun while they lasted.