What is a "real" champion?

The 2007 New England Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season, including a win over the NY Giants. No other team in NFL history had achieved this feat. The Miami Dolphins achieved an undefeated regular season back when teams only played 14 games and went on to win the Super Bowl. But ever since the league changed to playing 16 games, no team had ever emerged unscathed.

Yet, to prove that they were "champions", they were asked to beat the Giants once more, a team that lost six more games than the Pats in the regular season. The Pats came up short. Giants were crowned "champions".

Does this system sound fair to anyone? It sure doesn't to me.

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Spot on with this one too. I

Spot on with this one too. I started a post on this piece from the Huffington Post earlier today, but I got distracted. This kind of thinking just blows my mind:

To show that the BCS does not crown a legitimate winner let’s look at the years 2001 through 2008 and determine the chances that a BCS finalist would have won an 8 team playoff. Using power ratings for each year we took the two BCS selected teams and the next 6 ranked teams and used the Palisade Excel Monte Carlo simulation add-in @RISK to play out an 8 team tournament 5000 times. We seeded the BCS selected teams 1 and 2 in the tournament, so they received the easiest possible road to the title game. We found that one of the BCS’ top two teams won only 50% of the time. Even in 2005 when nobody doubted that USC and Texas should have played for the title, there was a 23% chance that both these teams would have been knocked off in an 8 team tournament. So how can the BCS claim they are crowning a legitimate champion?

Excuse me? You're going to define the winner of a playoff as a de facto "legitimate champion", and measure other systems to the extent they manage to replicate those results?

I hate to admit it, mainly because I despise Euro-snobs, and sports snobs are even worse, but I really do prefer the setup in league soccer. Home-and-away, most points wins. What could be fairer? I remember the days when the ACC basketball champion was determined that way too, before expansion. It's a very appealing (though obviously impossible national in college football) way to determine the champion.

Champion or best team?

I have no issue with the Giants as champion. They weren't the best team in the NFL that year, but they are undoubtedly the champion.

Is it fair? Of course. NFL playoff rules (qualification, home field advantage, etc) are clear and understood by all teams prior to the season. If you manage to qualify for the playoffs, then manage to win all the games you face in the playoffs, you are the NFL champion.

The Patriots were the better team, yes. But they were not the NFL champion, and I can't see any way to declare that "unfair".

College football is a different animal. There is a fraudulent method to determine a champion. Ostensibly the BCS is supposed to pit the two best teams in the country against each other and the winner be declared the champion. But there is too much variability and too obscure of a process (i.e. two different human polls -- one voted on by coaches who don't have the time nor energy to actually watch every relevant game -- and a group of six computer polls), and it is impossible to determine whether the two best teams actually meet in the "championship" game. TCU may be deserving of a slot in that game, but the structural biases of the system ensured that they can't play in it. Any system which structurally closes the door to three undefeated teams is a BS way to crown a champion.

Prior to the BCS, everyone knew the college football "national champion" was just a popularity contest. It was a fraudulent system for crowning "champions", but at least everyone knew it was fraudulent. The BCS tries to prop up 99% of that old system and yet act as if it is a fair way to crown a champion.

I think I am very unusual in

I think I am very unusual in not really caring at all about having a legitimate national champion in college football. Let's face it, there's no plausibly fair way to whittle down 120-odd teams to one in a 14 game season, and I admire college football for standing up against the belief that elimination tournaments are indisputably best.

I'd rather we just all behaved more like SEC fans: Treat the conference championships as the important thing, and national polls as a nice little bonus.

Championships are not so important

2007-8 New York Giants: NFL Champions. Congratulations.

2007-8 New England Patriots: arguably the greatest football team ever assembled.

Which would you rather be, a champion for one year or immortal?

"fair" ?

In any athletic competition, there is a terrible amount of variance due to nothing more than blind stupid luck. The better team loses with some frequency. That's the argument for why MLB, NHL, NBA have playoff series. But even those are too short, and chance can bring down the better team.

So it doesn't much matter HOW you crown your champion, so long as there is a set procedure that everyone agrees to and everyone has access to.

What makes I-A football unfair is that roughly half of the participants are all but locked out of a title shot, regardless of how they perform.

I don't care if they don't want to crown a champ. That's fine. But to name someone a champ when really all it is is a Major Conference champ, and excusing it by saying "oh, but it's not an NCAA certified championship" is a big bunch of crap.

Fairness vs Procedure

So it doesn't much matter HOW you crown your champion, so long as there is a set procedure that everyone agrees to and everyone has access to.

Ahhh someone is getting closer, but still not quite correct. I don't have a lot of time, but for the time being I'll propose:

This should not be a question of "fairness" but perhaps an exploration of procedure(s) (to use the above term), which may more accurately produce a definitive champion, if such there be. And if you'd like, your exploration could even include the fact that we're talking about a spectator sport, which exists in the purview of business and fan appreciation.

So, for example, you do not like the NFL procedure. Well, which then do you propose JW? And why is that one superior? This is a complicated question which touches many elements of sports.

I'll be honest, I don't watch sports to any consistent degree.

All things considered, I like the following:

To be the best, you have to beat the best, when it counts.

Of course it's fair

The champion has to win the championship match! Duh...

Wait, I think I get it

Wilde is probably a Patriots fan.