Competitive Imbalance

Illustration for article titled Competitive Imbalance

Professional sports leagues are supposed to be symmetrical. Every division is supposed to be the equal of every other division, and each conference is supposed to be able to match up approximately perfectly with its counterpart. Obviously that can't literally happen, because drafting and money and cities and whatnot, but I'm fairly sure that when everything was designed the end product was supposed to be a little cleaner than this. There are three major sports leagues currently operating on this continent right now, and all of them have something going horribly awry in the standings.


The NBA has had an off-and-on problem with the Eastern Conference approximately since Michael Jordan's second retirement, so it's not a total surprise to see the West be generally better, but this season is a particular bumblefuck for the league. Let's do the nice part first. The Heat and the Pacers are possibly the top two teams in the NBA, which gives the conference a better chance of winning a title than most years. That's it. The next best team in the East is up for debate in the same way that people argue over the methods of capital punishment: you can pick a favorite if you want, but you're fucked in the end anyway. There are eleven teams in the West with records equal or better than the third best team in the East, Atlanta, and there is an entire division (Southwest) bettering the record of the Atlantic Division leading Boston Celtics! If you were to pick the playoff field with a slection commitee instead of by divisions, you would pick everyone in the West not named Utah (awful, tanking) or Sacramento (awful, misguided) before you would take a third team from the East.

The reason for this massive discrepancy is the complete and utter failure of New York Basketball to leverage money into wins. Now, let me be clear and say that I expect either the Nets or Knicks to win the Atlantic Division, just because they are the only teams in said division with good basketball players, but right now they are a combined 14-29 even accounting for Brooklyn's recent win streak. Oh by the way, they each cost over $90 million, putting them a total of $76,649,247 over the salary cap. The Knicks have a roster that is a combined eleven thousand years old, littered with stupid contracts, and is being coached rather poorly by a probably-about-to-be-fired Mike Woodson. Rumor has it they are trying to trade picks from 2020 to acquire exceedingly average point guard Kyle Lowry, which would be just about the most Knicks thing ever if they hadn't done everything else wrong as well. The Nets are somehow even older than the Knicks, they are fielding the highest-paid lineup in the history of basketball, and they still managed to lose to the Knicks by thirty points! Ladies and Gentlemen, your NBA Eastern Conference.


Moving to the other major indoor winter sport doesn't yield any better results, and again the onus falls on the Eastern Conference to get its act together. The West has nine teams over the 40-point mark right now, while the East has a paltry three. The West is dominating the East in head-to-head, and it's a sure thing that multiple teams in the West will finish with enough points for them to have made the playoffs in the lesser conference. It feels harsh to spotlight New York again, but it's hard to escape their struggles. The Islanders and Rangers were in the playoffs last year, the Islanders as a team on the rise and the Rangers as a possible title contender, and they currently sit at last and third-to-last in their shared division. The Islanders have struggled to defend at anywhere close to a professional level and own the worst record in the NHL away from home, while the Rangers are a little better with a high-priced collection of talent that hasn't produced anything resembling offense. New York is not alone in its failings, as the Senators have fallen from Stanley Cup dark horse to a record under .500 and the Maple Leafs built on last years success by locking down the seventh seed as of today. That's two winter sports with massive struggles on the east coast, and it doesn't look like that's going to change anytime soon.

Football is definitely in better shape in regards to parity, but it still has a pretty large discrepancy between the AFC and the NFC right now. The Patriots are the current top seed after Denver lost to San Diego last night, and they are missing six of their eight best players. The NFC has four of the best five teams, and including the Broncos in there gets a little trickier after last night. The real issue though for the AFC is the catastrophe that is the "race" for the sixth seed. I talked about the garbage fire that is the second Wild Card spot before, and it's not looking a whole lot better today. The two teams at 7-6 are legitimate underdogs this weekend, with Baltimore visiting Detroit and Miami hosting New England, and the Chargers and Jets are the other options to finish this week without losing records. Meanwhile, the NFC could put two teams in the Wild Card at 12-4 if things break right, and those teams would be favored over anyone but the Broncos were they to make the Super Bowl. The AFC is only getting six teams into the playoffs because the rules dicate it necessary, and that pretty much makes them the Eastern Conference of the NFL.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter