The Best One-Loss Season Debate Verdict

January 26, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Babe Ruthless.

It is not very often that you can compare and contrast the radically different sports of horse racing and football, but that is exactly the context of this debate.

Both the 2007 New England Patriots and the horse Zenyatta flirted with immortality before it was cruelly ripped away from them at the zero hour. For the Patriots, they stood on the cusp of becoming the only team in NFL history to cap off a perfect 16-game season with a Super Bowl victory, while Zenyatta entered her final race with the hopes of being the only horse to retire at a perfect 20-0.

Both performed spectacularly. While they may have fallen short of becoming legends, their respective destinations should not overshadow their brilliant journeys.

If we hopped into the way-back machine, and were to assess the 2007 Patriots BEFORE the Super Bowl matchup against the Giants, then compare that to the career of Zenyatta BEFORE the 2010 Breeder’s Cup Classic, whose performance would history deem as being greater?

On history’s behalf, allow me to answer – Zenyatta.

What ultimately won the day for Zenyatta (and vicariously for Optimist Prime) is the fact that Zenyatta’s career was legendary BEFORE her final race. The fact that she lost to Blame at the 2010 Breeder’s Cup Classic is an unfortunate close to her legacy, but she had already established herself among the greatest horses ever to run – win OR lose.

Over her career, as Optimist Prime points out, Zenyatta significantly changed the sport of Horse Racing. In a sport where notoriety traditionally comes from success at the fabled Triple Crown races, Zenyatta blazed a new path to horse racing superstardom.

Thanks to Zenyatta, no longer is a Kentucky Derby victory a pre-requisite for horse racing greatness.

Think about the greatest horses in racing history – Secretariat, War Admiral, Affirmed, and more. Each was made great by their performance in the Triple Crown. Likewise, consider the horses of modern racing who have reached superstar status – Barbaro, Big Brown, Smarty Jones, and more. Just as with the former group, it is their respective Triple Crown performance that give them notoriety.

Zenyatta was different.

Instead of hoping to catch superstardom at the spectacle of the Kentucky Derby, she was the first horse to win two separate races at the Breeder’s Cup, was the first Mare to ever win the Classic, and no other horse has more consecutive Grade/Group One victories than Zenyatta. She became a celebrity by virtue of her outstanding CAREER, rather than her performance in three individual races.

Not since Man o’ War had a horse so captured the public’s eye without racing in the Triple Crown, and that is only because Man o’ War’s time came BEFORE the Triple Crown.

It is true that the New England Patriots also set many records. As Babe Ruthless mentions, they remain the only team ever to complete an undefeated 16-game regular season. But the NFL is always evolving. As it evolves, the statistical accomplishments of previous eras lose relevance. For the very same reasons that Babe Ruthless mitigates the 1972 Dolphins’ perfect season (because it came over a 14, rather than 16, game season), folks will one day mitigate the records of the New England Patriots as we now move closer to an 18-game season.

What does not lose relevance, though, is the fact that there has already been a perfect champion in the NFL. No matter how great the statistical achievements of the 2007 Patriots (as pointed out by Babe Ruthless), they were attempting to REPEAT history, not make it. Yes, it is true that the 1972 Dolphins played two less games, but they were nonetheless perfect champions.

Unlike the 2007 Patriots, Zenyatta was a pioneer.

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The Best One-Loss Season Debate

January 24, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Babe Ruthless.

In most years – and in most sports – the notion of perfection is lost long before the possibility is truly believed.

Each sport has its own idea of what constitutes perfection. But, no matter the sport, competitors who flirt with perfection draw a lot of attention. As they near that perfect effort, the pressure mounts. By the time the moment arrives – whether it is the tenth frame, the ninth inning, or the final game of the season – the world is watching.

In that moment when perfection is realized, history is instantly made. But how do you measure a failure to make history, especially when it comes in the final seconds of the quest?

Which brings us to our question for the day.

Whose one-loss effort was better, race horse Zenyatta, or the 2007 New England Patriots?

The 2007 New England Patriots tore through the regular season and stood one game away from becoming only the second team in NFL history to complete a perfect season before losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

In 2010, race horse Zenyatta entered the Breeder’s Cup Classic with an unblemished 19-0 record. The Breeder’s Cup was to be Zenyatta’s final race, and a victory in that race meant that the horse would retire at a perfect 20-0. But in the stretch, it was the horse Blame that claimed the Cup.

History will define both legacies by the number in their respective “L” columns, but we are going to look past those unfortunate numbers for today and focus on which “W” column is greater.

Babe Ruthless feels that the New England Patriots quest for immortality was the better of the two, while Optimist Prime thinks Zenyatta takes the crown (even if only by a nose).

You see… losers can still be winners!

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Pats Jetting to 2-0?”

September 17, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek.

The battle of the border is back in a big way. There has never been any love lost between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, but here lately the rivalry has intensified. Over the past several season, from Spygate to Tom Brady’s public profession of “hate” for Gang Green, it seems the Patriots and Jets are doing their best Red Sox-Yankees routine. So when the Pats make their first trip to the New Meadowlands Stadium, likely with hopes of extending a run of road dominance over a plucky Jets team, it’s immediately a top contender for game of the week.

Teams with Something to Prove

Before the season started there were several questions swirling around Foxboro that figured to undermine the Patriots effectiveness this season. Like, could the Patriots function despite the distraction of the looming contract situations of Tom Brady and Randy Moss? Would the young Patriots defense make the necessary growth to be serious playoff contenders? And, would Wes Welker be able to contribute before season’s end? Well, with week one in the books it appears those answers are yes, yes, and yes. Now a lethal Patriots team, which has won eight out of nine road games against the Jets, looks to march into the Empire State and prove they are the team to beat in the AFC East.

The Jets, however, have different plans. New York started the season with a tough loss on Monday Night Football to the Baltimore Ravens. It was a game in which sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez completed just ten passes for 74 yards and zero touchdowns, and the Jets ground game appeared equally pedestrian. But everyone knows that Gang Green’s claim to fame has been solid defense, and with the return of shutdown corner Darrelle Revis from a holdout hiatus, New York looks ready to mix it up with Tom Brady and company. This Sunday may mark the first home win in the team’s new stadium, potentially ushering in the beginning of a new era in the New England-New York rivalry.

Marquee Matchup: Moss versus Revis

One of the most interesting storylines leading into this game is the matchup of elite wide receiver Randy Moss and shutdown corner Revis. During last week’s matchup against the Bengals, Moss was quiet, posting a respectable, but not mind-blowing, five catches for 59 yards and no TDs. While one unexplosive week from Moss is not necessarily cause for alarm, it should be viewed in the greater context – the aging of the Patriots. At 3, Moss is not getting any younger, and a slight reduction in productivity at his age is not unimaginable. Add to that the fact that Moss is unhappily entering the final year of his current contract with no deal from the Patriotss in sight, and this could be the first signs of a potential problem for Patriots’ passing game. This Sunday’s game will give Moss a chance to prove he’s still got it by taking on one of the greatest defenders in the game.

Moss will certainly be motivated for the showdown. What remains to be seen, however, is whether he will get the opportunity to showcase his skills against A) Darrelle Revis, one of the league’s best defensive backs or B) Darrelle Revis, unprepared cornerback suffering from holdout hangover. Now that Revis is back from his 36 day holdout, he appears to be ailing from some hamstring tightness that has limited him in practice. In the week two clash between the Patriots and Jets last season, Revis limited Moss to just four catches for 24 yards, and statements by Rex Ryan have indicated that if Revis is ready on game day he will get his chance at a repeat performance and be asked to cover Moss all day. Revis even added fuel to the fire by dubbing Moss a “slouch” for his underachieving performance last season. This has certainly hyped up the showdown and figures to add drama to an already great rivalry.

War of Words

Even more hype has been added to the Patriots-Jets rivalry as of late because of public statements made by members of both teams. It all started when Tom Brady was asked if he watched the HBO series “Hard Knocks,” a series that followed the Jets throughout training camp. His answer, “I hate the Jets, so I refuse to support that show” didn’t sit well with many of the Meadowlands faithful. Jets head coach Rex Ryan even retorted, “Hell, he knows we hate the Patriots so what’s the difference… join the club.”

There’s a lot at stake for each team. The Jets look to shake a rough start and prove they are Super Bowl bound, while the Patriots look to put upstart rivals back in their place. It figures to be a very physical football game with plenty of aggression on both sides of the ball. In other words, it’s the type of game that reminds guys why they like football in the first place.

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The Most Hated Team Ever Debate… Boston-Based Massacre Results in the Death of Patriot Honor

August 4, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

For MANY years we sympathized with the laments coming from the city of Boston. Although the city’s basketball team won countless championships leading up to the mid 1980s, the baseball drought was legendary. And the Patriots of the 20th Century were among the most irrelevant teams in all of football.

But things started to change at the turn of the century.

Suddenly, Boston experienced a resurgence in its athletic prowess, all kicked off by a very exciting New England Patriots Super Bowl victory over the St. Louis Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf in January of 2002.

Then the Patriots won again in 2003. And then AGAIN in 2004.

Suddenly, the people of Boston weren’t so championship starved anymore, and the Patriots went from being “David” to becoming “Goliath.” Instead of being perceived as the feel-good underdog story, the Patriots VERY rapidly became the team with the target on its back. It won three Super Bowls in four seasons, and all signs indicated that the Patriots had become a juggernaut force to be reckoned with.

The warmth that New England basked in during January of 2002 had grown very icy by the time 2007 rolled around.

In a matter of only four years, Boston had gone from “Loserville” to “Titletown.” In 2007 it seemed like the city held a monopoly on championships. The Red Sox had “purchased” a second World Series championship of the decade in 2007, and the Celtics were in the throes of what would become an excellent run after having followed the lead of the Red Sox by acquiring The Big Three.

Taking “Woe is Me” too far

All of that would have been tolerated by the American public, except for one small fact – the city of Boston, and the New England Patriots in particular, behaved as if they were still the loveable losers that the rest of the country felt sorry for (I guess old habits die hard).

They cried foul whenever their feelings got hurt, and sobbed that they were being picked on and got no respect. Every insult to the Patriots was overblown into a national headline. Each disparaging comment against their sacred organization was treated as an injustice which had to be righted in the public eye.

When Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell commented that he only knew the numbers (not the names) of the Patriots’ secondary, the New England defense was quick to cry foul and lament the lack of respect they felt they deserved. And when Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt (who admittedly has let his mouth get him into trouble) stated that the Patriots were beatable on the heels of some other controversial comments he made, the Patriots actually resorted to pathetic name-calling (Rodney Harrison called Vanderjagt “Vander-jerk”).

Is this kindergarten?!

Instead of looking like good guys, they came across as being petty and whiny. And as the 2007 season played out, the team, which ranks as number six on Sports Illustrated’s list of the most hated teams of all time, proved also to be hypocritical.

Hypocrisy in Action

After having bemoaned so much perceived disrespect at the hands of the greater league, the team delivered nothing BUT disrespect all season long by spitting in the faces of the league and its opponents.

On the field scores were run up to RIDICULOUS totals, as though the Pats were lobbying for a BCS rank. In one game they shut down the Redskins by a score of 52-7, and in another it was the Bills who were on the receiving end of a 56-10 performance. All told over the course of the season, the Patriots outscored opponents 582-274 (that equals to an average margin of victory of more than 19 points per game).

Off the field, though, was where the biggest sign of disrespect was felt.


It was early in the 2007 season when it was leaked that the New England Patriots had illegally participated in the clandestine videotaping of opponents’ practices.

That’s right – the New England Patriots were CHEATERS!

The Patriots committed the most heinous crime in the world of athletic competition. They not only spit in the face of their opponents, they cheapened the entire game with dirty tactics and rule-breaking. And in the midst of the scandal that became known as “Spygate,” the Patriots continued to play football completely unhindered by the situation they created.

It was the absolute height of injustice that a team which had been CAUGHT cheating on a championship stage could continue to play as if no charges existed against them. It was insulting to fans everywhere that the Patriots, mired as they were in scandal, could still go on to turn in the NFL’s first ever 16-0 regular season performance.

And the biggest insult of all was the complete lack of contrition or remorse that team officials and players showed. It was like watching a guilty man not only walk free, but go on to win the lottery.

With so many “deserving” teams in the league, it just seemed unfathomable that the Patriots, so tarnished in the public eye, could actually go on to turn in one of the greatest regular season performances in the history of the league.

Fortunately, these things have a way of working themselves out.

So for those of you who don’t believe in Karma, watch this play. Because in the end, despite the smug, above-the-rules attitude demonstrated by the Patriots all season long, justice was ultimately served in one of the greatest Super Bowl plays of all time!

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The Which Coach Deserves the Money Debate… Some Extra Credit for Effort

June 2, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek.

Too many people in sports today are overpaid. The reason stems from the fact that too much emphasis is placed on potential. Whether athletes, coaches, or administrators, unproven people have managed to leverage their positions into millions of dollars, based solely on the PROMISE of results, even when there is no history supporting the likelihood that those people will deliver.

So when Forbes’ list of the highest paid coaches was released it was nice to see that the top spots were held by the most successful coaches in their respective sports. But with all due respect to Phil Jackson, whose salary of $10.3M seems commensurate with the ten NBA titles that he has earned, it is actually the SECOND coach on the list who is MOST deserving of his salary – Bill Belichek.

Bill Belichek, like Phil Jackson, is the coach with the most championships in his respective league today. As the coach with the most championships, Belichek is justifiably paid the top salary in the NFL, earning a hefty $7.5M per year.

Where Belichek takes the edge over the NBA’s Jackson, though, as being more DESERVING of his top salary, is the manner in which the two coaches won their respective championships. Phil Jackson has had a legendary career, and is rightfully paid a hefty sum for his PROVEN ability to lead. The one thing that Phil Jackson never had to do, though, was actually BUILD a franchise into a championship-caliber organization.

I am not trying to diminish Jackson’s accomplishments in the slightest. He has earned every single one of the rings that he wears, and deserves all of the recognition that comes with them. I am simply highlighting the one additional feat that Belichek had to accomplish in order to claim three Super Bowl championships, which makes him more deserving of the salary he receives.

When Jackson was brought into the Chicago Bulls organization for the 1989-1990 season, the team had already been established as a team on the cusp of winning a championship. Their roster already claimed Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and the organization was in the midst of five consecutive playoff appearances, including an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals during the 1989 postseason. He was given the keys to a car that was already en route to at least one championship, and assigned the simple task of not screwing anything up.

Likewise, the Los Angeles Lakers team, which Jackson inherited, was championship ready. With a roster that already included Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, Jackson was placed in the driver’s seat of a team that had been playing as one of the best franchises in the league for several years BEFORE Jackson got there. Once again, his orders were simple – don’t screw it up!

Bill Belichek was not quite so lucky.

When he took over at the helm for the New England Patriots, his team had not had been quite so championship ready. Unlike Jackson’s Bulls and Lakers who seemed to be trending TOWARD a championship, Belichek’s Patriots appeared to be trending AWAY from one. The franchise was several seasons removed from its last playoff victory and was coming off an 8-8 season that did not include the playoffs, leaving much to be desired in the New England area.

It is true that his defense was already very talented when he became head coach, with standouts like Lawyer Milloy, Teddy Bruschi, Ty Law, and Willie McGinest, but that talent can actually still be credited to Belichek, who helped lay the foundations for that talent as the defensive coordinator for the Patriots prior to his promotion.

It was on the other side of the ball where he had not yet had an opportunity to exert his influence, where the Patriots were seeing the most issues. And as soon as Belichek got his hands on the Patriots offense, he made the changes that would solidify his legacy among the greatest head coaches of all time.

Offensively, the Patriots had only one legitimate star in quarterback Drew Bledsoe. But after a Bledsoe injury early during the 2000-2001 season (coming off of a 5-11 performance the season prior), Belichek had no problems deferring to his backup quarterback, Tom Brady. And even when Bledsoe (a Pro Bowl-caliber who was perceived as the franchise quarterback) returned healthy to the Patriots, Belichek made the controversial decision to stick with the relatively untested Brady during the postseason.

That decision paid off greatly for Belichek, as it became the turning point for the Patriots, a team that changed from postseason hopefuls into a Super Bowl dynasty.

Belichek was instrumental in BUILDING a championship franchise in New England. As defensive coordinator he got a head start in laying the foundations for one of the most dominant defenses of his era, and he overhauled his offense as soon as he got the chance after becoming Head Coach.

Phil Jackson helped many present and future Hall of Famers to fulfill their own destiny of winning a championship. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal were each already established as top players in their game, and are credited equally with (if not more than) Phil Jackson as being instrumental towards winning their respective championships. For the New England Patriots, they owe their Super Bowl success to no one other than Bill Belichek.

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The 2009 Easiest Path to the Super Bowl Debate – Colts Have the Path of Least Resistance

January 4, 2010

Read the argument from Loyal Homer about which team will have the easiest path to the Super Bowl.

Plenty of sports commentary websites will take up a bunch of space with writers making uneducated and unqualified predications about which team will win the Super Bowl. We here at The Sports Debates find that stupid. Rather, we are taking up your mind space today with a debate about which team has the easiest path to the Super Bowl, and why. These are not predictions, instead we offer just an analysis of a team’s path.

No team this season has a more clearly defined, straightforward path to the Super Bowl than the Indianapolis Colts.

As if the Colts need any additional rest, the team played so well in the regular season that they have earned the first week off. It is true that some will argue the Colts will receive too much rest. For a team based on rhythm offense it can be difficult to retain momentum after so much downtime. However, the Colts have already been in the position before – and still managed to win the Super Bowl in 2007. The team is comprised of professionals who understand the professional game and how to remain loose and ready to play. Yes, the team will be ready when the first playoff game rolls around… they will also be healthy with the time off afforded to the team that earns it. The Colts earned it.

Just two games, two wins, and the Colts are in the Super Bowl. It is not difficult to conceive the Colts playing in the Super Bowl, and when looking at the potential opponents, the matchups favor the Colts.

In the first game, after a nice, long, winter rest, the Colts will take on the winner of the Cincinnati Bengals and the New York Jets. The Jets, a team that basically backed into the playoffs, looked great against a Bengals team that was clearly not trying very hard. The Bengals started the season hot, but have delivered increasingly inconsistent running performances, and offensive turnovers have created a negative momentum for the team as it heads into the playoffs. As good as the Bengals defense has been, Manning and the Colts are always better. Regarding the Jets, the Colts were able to play them without playing many starters in week 16 and without revealing complex game plans. The Jets, on the other hand, were playing for playoff life, so very little was held back, putting the Colts in the strategic catbird seat – a seat Manning always keeps warm.

The second game for the Colts – the AFC Championship game – will most likely feature the New England Patriots or the San Diego Chargers. New England, a team that both lost its most reliable receiver in Wes Welker and, according to Charlie Casserly’s appearance on CBS’ pregame show on Sunday, has a quarterback who is playing with three broken ribs, will likely not be the once vaunted Patriots many expect. As good as the Chargers have played this 2009 season, the team is one-dimensional on offense and relies heavily on quarterback Phillip Rivers. The Colts do not have a shutdown defense, but they are good enough to stop a one-dimensional attack enough. As good as the Colts are on offense – and the team is excellent and balanced on offense – one of the more underrated but important stats is the Colts’ ability to sustain long drives thanks to veteran quarterback presence. In short, Manning’s presence allows the offense to play keep away from good offenses and keep the defense rested (as if it needs more).

Sure, the Colts lost a couple of games heading into the postseason. But, the starters were held out of the games that could have helped the 2009 Colts achieve immortality with a shot at an undefeated season. I will write what we all know – if the Colts’ starters play the entire length of every game this season they probably win each game. Instead of being regarded as a potentially legendary team headed into the playoffs, they are simply a good team that still has something to prove.

The Colts are solid in every aspect of the game. The team has excellent kickers, good returners, strong defense, and the league’s best passing offense with the most diverse set of weapons. While other teams in the NFC and AFC have entered the playoffs on a downswing with troubles (see New Orleans, Cincinnati, Minnesota, etc.), the Colts are best positioned to make a return to the Super Bowl. After the team gets to Miami, however, who knows what will happen!

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The Running Up the Score Debate – Is There A Line That Shouldn’t Be Crossed?

December 2, 2009

Read the arguments by Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

The term “running up the score” stirs up raw emotions in the minds of passionate sports fans. Can you believe the term “running up the score” actually has a Wikipedia page? On one end there is the winning team, the one that is enjoying the show and enjoys seeing the opponent suffer. Or maybe the team is just trying to make a point for a variety of reasons (to impress pollsters, embarrass a rival, etc.). On the other end, however, the losing team argues that it is not right to kick a man when he is down and that running up the score shows a lack of class – it is just plain poor sportsmanship. This topic could be argued all day long back and forth. Instead, The Sports Debate is here and come up with a conclusion.

This debate comes in light of last week’s game between USC and UCLA. If you do not know the story, UCLA called timeout after USC was trying to run the clock out by lining up in victory formation late in the game. USC then decided to throw deep, and was able to complete a long touchdown pass, thus creating a stir at the end of the game.

There are countless examples of situations where the winning side could be accused of running up the score. How many times have the Florida Gators, USC Trojans, New England Patriots, and other teams been accused of running up the score? As a matter of fact, The Sports Debates somewhat danced around this issue back in September with our “College Football Mercy Rule Debate.” But as the title suggests, that debate had more to do with having an actual “mercy rule” in college football.

Running up the score is not limited to football either. There are ways to run up the score in baseball, basketball, and other sports. In baseball, maybe the winning team continues to steal bases late in a game that is well in hand. In basketball, perhaps the winning team continues to have a full-court press on with their starters, despite being up 30 with two minutes to go in the game.

Babe Ruthless, in an argument that fits the persona like none other, will argue that it is perfectly okay to run up the score for a variety of reasons. It is, after all, one team’s job to stop another. Bleacher Fan, on the other hand, will argue that it is inappropriate to run up the score on an opponent in any situation on any level in any sport.

The floor is yours! Give it your best shot!

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