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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fair Play is One Thing. Charity is Another

When we grew up the process of choosing teams was simple. Either in gym class or recess you took the two best players, separated them and then had them choose one player at a time until the teams were made. In this way you pretty much ensured mostly even teams..and competition.

But life,  and professional sports don't work that way.
In life,  those that have the most to offer usually get the most rewards. Teams,  or organizations are built to group the best with the best so they can outperform the competition and get even stronger. There are clear winners and losers.

In sports, while the competitive balance is important to maintain the interest of the consumer, or fan, it is still a business and the goal is to make your team stronger and therefore the other team weaker. Winning is more important that balanced competition.

I am all for rewarding and helping those in need. In sports, you need to even up the teams or else there is really no point in playing the games. The goal is to be competitive and keep the interest of the paying customer.
At some point though, you can't keep giving handouts to those who can't take advantage of the help they are given.
It is common practice that if you don't do well in the standings you get a higher draft pick the next year. Almost every sport works this way. It rewards the weak with an instant,  undeserved chance to improve and get better. This goes contrary to life, which rewards the achievers and beats down and makes difficult the prospects for the less talented.
We have now reached a situation that cries out for a need to change the way sports does business.

The Edmonton Oilers (of the NHL, National Hockey League) took Taylor Hall first overall two years ago and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins last year, and now the Oilers have sunk to 29th place, just seven points ahead of dreadful, 30th place Columbus. If they end up with the worst record in the league, which is likely, they have a very realistic shot at getting the first overall draft pick for the third year in a row.

Suddenly, that third straight first overall selection is in range. But should it be?
One draft pick like that is a correction,  and can be considered fair play. A second year is a bonus, and can be justified in that the team needed more help. I am not in favor of two picks in a row, but it can be argued that it is necessary for the health of the league on the whole. But a third first overall draft pick? Nope, that is rewarding those who just don't perform, and is basically charity.
I am proposing that professional sports change the way they do business. If you get the first overall pick in the year you make it, then the next year, no matter how poorly you do, you cannot pick above the first five picks. In that way, team management must get better and find a way to improve without charity.
It is always a tough balance between fair play and rewarding incompetence, but it is also not acceptable to punish excellence, which is what pro sports has come to. I say put a stop to that.

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