The New York Influence Debate Verdict

March 9, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Optimist Prime.

In the debate about whether the success of New York sports teams is important to the success of professional respective leagues Loyal Homer got right to work airing his grievances against the dominance of the New York sports market in his argument. Rightfully so, he criticizes the all encompassing coverage that New York teams receive even when they are mired in the deepest slumps of mediocrity. His assertion, that this undeniable truth may be due in no small part to the proximity of New York to ESPN headquarters, holds some validity. But that is about where our agreements ended.

Loyal Homer focuses too much of his attention on attacking the weak links of the New York sports scene. Obviously the Mets haven’t met (pun unintended) the unprecedented success of the Yankees, but then again, for this debate, that is not a requirement. Both are MLB teams and though the Mets may not always reach the postseason, their cross-town rivals almost always do. While the Mets may be floundering to survive, the Yankees shoulder the burden of league leading success, which I would like to remind Loyal Homer comes at a price. At least in baseball, the unlimited spending the Yankees are able to do yields immediate benefits for the rest of the league in the form of revenue sharing.

But I digress. I simply wasn’t sold on Loyal Homers argument that New York teams aren’t necessary for professional league success.

As for Optimist Prime… while I would love to let you know you are leaving today on that all expenses paid trip to NYC you wrote about in your argument, you are just going to have to settle for a victory in today’s debate.

Optimist Prime won this debate because he was successful in convincing me that New York sports franchises are indeed important to the overall success of a league. He did so, surprisingly enough, with numbers, and not a sheer emotional appeal. Admittedly it probably would have been easy to sway me with a barrage of sentimentality over the rich history of New York franchises. I fully expected him to explain how the storied legacy of Big Apple franchises like the Rangers, Yankees, and Giants have come to transcend geographic boundaries, thus making NYC the national fan base critical for the survival of leagues. Instead he chose to take the majority of this debate down a very different path.

Optimist Prime explored the magnitude of the New York market as a whole. He explained that the 19.1 million fans (roughly 1 in every 16 Americans) in the greater NYC market are a force that quite simply cannot be ignored. Add to that the fact that New York is one of the most demanding sports markets in the world and we are talking about a fan base that must be appeased with winning. If New York teams win, the peripheral popularity and buzz is sure to trickle down to the rest of the league, Reaganomics style.

Loyal Homer tested this premise thoroughly by pointing out how the NBA survived and even grew in popularity despite the decade long struggles of New York Knicks, but the fault with this logic is that it does not rule out the possibility of the NBA doing that much better following in the wake of a league leading Knicks team. There is absolutely no telling how much more growth the league would have seen had the Knicks landed a Carmelo Anthony type player, or just established a winning record over that time frame. Judging by what we actually can measure, we see that there is popular support and growth in leagues that have seen New York dominance in recent years (i.e. the NFL with the Giants 2008 Super Bowl victory and MLB with the Yankees 2009 World Series Championship).

In the end, as Optimist Prime aptly points out, “size does matter” and numbers don’t lie. Like it or not, New York matters.

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The New York Influence Debate

March 7, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Optimist Prime.

New York… The Big Apple… The City That Never Sleeps. No matter what you call it, you are referring to a very special place.

It is a city that serves as THE preeminent cultural trendsetter since virtually the birth of this great nation. It is also a city with one of the richest sports histories in America. Since baseball was being played on the Polo Grounds, New York has been leading the way for the American sports scene. The Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Rangers, Islanders, and Knicks have kept that rich history alive. Sure, there have been lulls in the various teams’ relevance, like the Yankees of the 1980s or say… the last ten years for the Knicks. But overall, New York seems to find a way to always be at the forefront of championship contention.

It is often said that when teams from New York are good, that is a good thing for their respective sport. For instance, the Knicks were a complete non-factor for nearly a decade, but in the wake of the block buster Carmelo Anthony deal, they are back in a big way. So are good things in store for the NBA?

This prompts us here at the Sports Debates to tackle a very intriguing question Is a good team in New York REALLY good for the league as a whole. Does the success or failure of a New York team make no difference?

Loyal Homer believes that New York teams make no difference on a league’s health what so eve while Optimist Prime argues the better a team in New York is, the better the league is overall.

Gents, let’s see what New York’s got. Ponder the meaning behind Sinatra’s statement, “It’s up to you New York, New York!”

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The New York Influence Debate… New York Good for Quantity and Quality

March 7, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

It’s not often that I find myself arguing in favor of New York sports teams.

Although I am quite fond of New York City itself, that opinion is derived more from its food, culture, and general vibe than whatever the sports teams are up to at that any in time. Although my wife is from New Jersey, my interaction with most of the New York sports teams has consisted of me antagonizing her regarding their various failures and crushing defeats. When I was assigned the task of arguing that a good New York team is important to a league’s overall health, I originally asked the TSD editorial board for a stipend to travel to New York to research this topic in-depth. Unfortunately, that was summarily rejected. Perhaps they were on to my plan of hitting every food spot I’d ever seen on the No Reservations shows shot in New York City. Whatever the cause, I was forced to research this article from my humble abode rather than the Big Apple. Nevertheless, I believe I have come up with some compelling arguments.

The first, and most obvious argument, is that size does matter. The New York metropolitan area has 19.1 million people in it. Basically, roughly 1 of every 16 Americans lives in and around New York City. Logic follows that if an adequate percentage of those fans become Knicks, Rangers, Giants fans (etc.), then that volume of fans will be healthy for the league’s overall health. Basically, if a big city’s team is good, that generally helps the league’s standing among the fans and media overall (see the Chicago Blackhawks for a prime example of a large city’s team increasing a sport’s overall profile).

New York City is America’s largest metropolitan area, so it seems like the most obvious example of this.

Another interesting argument that occurred to me is that the center of New York sports is, arguably Madison Square Garden (it’s close to Manhattan’s geographic center, at least). Madison Square Garden’s slogan is, “The World’s Most Famous Arena” – and it’s hard to argue that is not the case. The fame and history is borne out by the passion of the Knicks and Rangers fans who have filled the building to seating and noise capacity if either team is within shouting distance of a post-season berth or any post-season success.

Beyond statistical and arena angles, there is the more subtle angle that many New York teams are intimately connected to the past, present, and future of the leagues. The Rangers are an Original Six NHL franchise. The Giants played in the NFL’s “Greatest Game” and have won several league championships and Super Bowls combined. The Yankees are, well, the Yankees (you’ll enjoy this part, Babe Ruthless). Whatever you think of the Yanks, they are the most successful professional baseball (and, arguably, professional sports) franchise in American sports. They have more championships, more pennants, more money, and more fans than any other team. They fill stadiums when they play on the road because some fans love to love the Yankees, and some fans love to hate the Yankees. Even the Mets and Jets have reached notable status repeatedly in the last several years. Even the team that time forgot, the New York Islanders, have won four Stanley Cups. New York sports teams – love them or hate them – often represent the pinnacle of success in their respective sports.

I believe I have laid out a thorough, compelling case for the necessary relevance of New York sports teams in their respective leagues. And if I have not, please donate to my “Travel to NYC To Do More Research” fund (I’m working on a catchier name).

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The 2010 Biggest Story of the Year Debate… The Decision

January 2, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Loyal Homer.

It takes a lot to shock Americans these days. After all, we are a culture where pop icons have to don suits of raw meat at awards shows, and stay-at-home moms have to have eight children at once to make a name for themselves. But, the free agent contract negotiations of one NBA player did seem to capture the attention of the nation for the better part of a month.

For a short while last summer, the LeBron James free agent saga unfolded in such a way almost no one could have predicted, in the process running the cities of Cleveland, New York, Chicago, and Miami through an emotional ringer. It was THE story of the year. LeBron James, arguably the most coveted free agent of all time… for any sport… was weighing his options, and in the process potentially altering the landscape of the NBA for years to come. Would he stay in Cleveland – the city that loved him like no other could? Or would the bright lights of the Big Apple lure him away? The options were many, the tension palpable, and it went on like this for weeks.

LeBron news dominated sports coverage around the country. Many joked that the attention that ESPN was paying the spectacle warranted its own channel (perhaps ESPN12…The King’s News) and that was before they decided to give him a one hour signing special – The Decision. James coverage was so all consuming that before it was all said and done many viewers were reporting symptoms of LeBron-lash (a disease marked by anxiety, irritation, and nausea from too much hype).

The whole fiasco climaxed in a nationally televised sit down interview with Jim Gray. It had the potential to be an edgy interview as Gray had a reputation for asking tough questions, instead it turned out to be a lot of coy skirting around the matter at hand before finally getting down to the business of determining where King James would sign. After some trivial banter which prompted SNL head writer Seth Myers to Tweet “Foreplay from Jim Gray just as satisfying as I’ve always imagined it would be” … LeBron finally announced he would be South Beach bound.

Miami rejoiced. Chicago scratched its head. New York went back to the drawing board (chants for Car-mell-o, Car-mell-o already filling the streets outside of The Garden). And Cleveland went through the seven stages of grief.

But the real story wasn’t so much that King James was on the move, but rather how he announced it. He did it in the most grandiose, spectacular way in all of NBA history. The obvious self-promotion of the event rivaled on a publicity stunt of Spencer Pratt or P Diddy. Whether it was good publicity or bad publicity, it was indeed the greatest publicity I have ever seen attributed to one individual athlete or team in my lifetime. Barry Bonds’ steroid scandal never hit such a fevered frenzy. The Brett Favre’s consecutive starts streak drama didn’t even come close. Even Curt Schilling’s bloody sock and the Red Sox 86 year drought-breaking World Series victory all pale in comparison in terms of media coverage and pop culture significance of The Decision.

Popular support for James and the move was split. Americans either fell into the Pro-LeBron camp, which supported the move and the super team which it created, or the Pro-Cleveland camp, which despised the abandonment of the city and team that supported him during his rise to superstardom. It was eerily reminiscent to the Team Edward and Team Jacob controversy which had divided America earlier. (Side note – it’s not really even a choice. Clearly Jacob is right for her. He loves Bella and she wouldn’t have to change for him.)

Even the fallout from The Decision was headline news. Within minutes the Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, released a passionate and critical statement about James’ choice to leave Cleveland. That reaction (which won him Bleacher Fan’s nod for Debate of the Year) prompted a response from Jesse Jackson, who compared the whole ordeal to slavery and not so subtly questioned the racial bias of Dan Gilbert and anyone who questioned LeBron’s choice. It seemed that anyone and everyone had an opinion about The Decision and it was being made as public as possible.

The Sports Debates is no different. We have tried to hash out the issue in debates both on the website and off. In fact, we are still arguing the issue to this very day. Sports Geek and I quite frequently try to hash out never really finding common ground. Perhaps I just root for the villains too much or perhaps LeBron isn’t the orphan hating kitten strangler the city believes him to be (another side note – I actually think Cleveland might prefer an orphan hating kitten strangler to LeBron at this point). But the fact remains that LeBron’s decision is still a polarizing entity in the sports world, even today.

In some respects, LeBronmania is still in full swing. But the question remains, why? Is it that he is the greatest, most important sports figure of all time? Probably not. Is it that his decision was so shocking that we simply cannot or will not accept it? Again, I think not. I believe the issue is and always was the spectacle of it all.

Americans like drama and LeBron is drama. Michael Jordan playing for a team other than the Bulls would have at one time been unthinkable, although not impossible. But even if the Jump Man had jumped ship it probably would never have been done in quite so flashy a way, and might very well have been received by the public in a very different way. The difference is in the approach. LeBron’s legacy is flash, and The Decision was the biggest flashpoint of 2010, if not of all time in the NBA.

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The Resigning Derek Jeter Debate Verdict

October 26, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Although I don’t live in New York, I can only imagine that the wind tunnel of New York sports talk radio is directing its gale-force winds directly at Yankee Stadium and the Yankees’ brain trust. New York sports fans are famously outspoken, and in my experience, Yankees fans take that to heights beyond the fans of other NYC-area franchises. We decided, though, we’d help out Brian Cashman and make his decision for him. So, Mr. Cashman, read our decision for you and feel free to send our tiny consulting fee whenever it’s appropriate. Thanks… and now to the verdict.

Loyal Homer made a very compelling statistical argument that Jeter is certainly not the player he was at the beginning of his 10-year contract. Indeed, he may not be the same player he was just last season. He also, at least in my mind, successfully parried the point made by many Jeter aficionados that he is well worth the money and a lengthy contract because he could eventually become a DH for the Yankees. Loyal Homer points out that Jeter’s declining statistics may not portend the kind of offense the Yankees would like to see out of the DH spot when Jeter gives up his spot at shortstop.

Where Loyal Homer began to lose me, however, was when he stated that financial considerations may enter into the equation for the Yankees. While I could see the two parties squabbling over the length of the contract and things of that nature, I cannot imagine the Yankees playing the “Hey Derek, we don’t have the money” card. Even facing an off-season with some moves to be made, I cannot imagine the money machine that is the New York Yankees and YES Network running out and forcing the club to kick Mr. November to the curb.

After wiping the slobber off my copy of Babe Ruthless’ argument I began to examine some of the points he made. He writes, “Derek Jeter is worth every penny the Yankees shell out for him and more.” While I don’t disagree that he was, I’m not convinced that he is. Loyal Homer brought some statistical analysis to the table that seemed, in my mind, to be superior to Babe Ruthless’ breathless opinion. Later in his post, Babe refuted a semi-scientific fielding effectiveness study by implying the originators of the study brought some undisclosed bias to the table. While I’m not saying that’s impossible, I needed more than Babe’s opinion to counteract the statistics brought to the table by Loyal Homer.

When Babe Ruthless started talking about Jeter’s legendary status, however, I began to tilt my verdict in his favor. While I am not sure that Jeter’s legend is quite as bright outside New York as it is inside New York, there is no doubt that he is one of the greatest Yankees of all time. More importantly, the Yankees deal in legends – it is the backbone of the organization. They are rightly regarded as the greatest franchise in baseball and, simply put, they are not going to kick a guy to the curb who is going to have a plaque in Monument Park. While there may be some public sniping, I truly believe the Yankees will do what it takes to put Jeter in pinstripes for the rest of his career – and they should.

While I would regard Babe’s victory here as more of a scorecard win than a knockout, a W is a W and an L is an L. Congrats, Babe, and watch in the mail for your victory prize – three free therapy sessions with 30 Rock’s Dr. Leo Spaceman to cure the man crush you have on Derek Jeter. Enjoy!

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The Sabathia versus King Felix Debate… Sabathia Dethrones a False King

October 5, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek.

Since today is the first day of the MLB Post Season, The Sports Debates decided to celebrate the season with an old fashioned “who is better” style debate over two of baseball’s best – C.C. Sabathia and Felix Hernandez. The ace from the Big Apple owns the league when it comes to wins, but King Felix rules from his thrown atop the ERA ranks. Both pitchers are unquestionably among the best in baseball, and both pitchers are crazy talented. But Sabathia is the only one to get consistent results from his talent. He converts starts into wins, and that is the all important difference between contender and pretender.

Effective Pitching Wins Championships

We have all heard the old cliché that pitching wins championships, and it is true… or rather mostly true. I think a more appropriate expression would be “effective pitching wins championships.” Effective pitchers are the guys who get outs, not just the first time through the lineup, but when the game is on the line. They are the guys that keep leads even when their team’s offense isn’t firing on all cylinders. But most importantly, effective pitchers win games. A guy doesn’t have to have the most dominant stuff to be the more effective pitcher, he just has to use his stuff to win ball games.

Unfortunately for Felix Hernandez, despite all his talent, his ability to convert that talent into W’s remains largely untapped. At season’s end Hernandez owns a 13-12 record, and as a result finds himself on the outside looking in during October. Obviously he is at a disadvantage with a less explosive offensive than what backs Sabathia, but to simply dismiss a difference of eight wins as a lack of offense would be foolish. Sure the Yankees have power, but the Mariners have speed. They boast a formidable lineup with a terrific one two punch at the top of the order. With arguably the best leadoff man in baseball, Ichiro Suzuki, atop the order and a sparkplug in the number two hole in Chone Figgins Seattle certainly has the potential to put up enough runs to stay in games. Similarly, it would be equally as inappropriate to attribute all those losses as a lack of bullpen help. Again, Hernandez may not be able to turn the ball over to Mariano Rivera, but David Aardsma racked up just two fewer wins than Mo this season, so that theory doesn’t hold either.

C.C. Sabathia, on the other hand, is certainly an effective pitcher. He has won 21 games this season. That is more than any other pitcher in the American League, and ties him for the most wins in all of baseball. It should also be noted that Sabathia was able to accomplish this in the ultracompetitive A.L. East, frequently facing potent Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox lineups. Sabathia is the unquestioned ace of the New York rotation and has led his staff to accumulate 94 wins, the second most in all of baseball. The bottom line, however, is that Sabathia gets wins. Whether it is the fact that he works deep enough into the games, or he just comes through in the clutch, Sabathia finds ways to win games – and that’s the difference.

Sometimes Stats Lie

Baseball is probably the most statistically driven sport, but when judging players it is important to consider the right categories because sometimes stats can be deceiving. I do not mean that statistics are faulty or inflated, but that certain statistics are not valid measurements of a players worth.

The strikeout statistic is a perfect example. During the regular season, 14 players recorded 200 or more strikeouts, among them were John Lester (225 Ks and a 19-9 record), Roy Halladay (219 Ks and a 21-10 record), and Adam Wainwright (213 Ks and a 20-11 record). Looking at these players’ dominant strikeout totals and impressive win-loss record one could assume that players with large strikeout totals must also be effective pitchers that win a large majority of their games. But that would be a misnomer. In fact, of the 14 players to record 200 plus strikeouts, nine of them had double digit losses as well, and three of them only won one more game than they lost, including Felix Hernandez. Similarly, while low ERAs may sometimes be indicative of excellent pitching, the stat is not always an accurate correlate of winning baseball. Only a little more than one-third of pitchers in the top 21 in ERA won more than 14 games.

In the end the only statistic that really matters is winning. C.C. Sabathia knows how to win better than almost any other pitcher in baseball, and it is because of that fact that I would trust him with the ball anytime he is healthy, rested, and ready to take the mound. His successes on short rest in last season’s playoffs are a testament to his ability. This season he’ll be given the chance to put those skills on display again, while Hernandez will be thinking about 2011. That’s just about as much proof as you need.

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The Trading Carmelo Anthony Debate

August 26, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

As Carmelo Anthony enters the final year of his contract the Denver Nuggets are faced with a huge dilemma. Anthony, a three-time All-Star with impressive stats, could (and in all likelihood probably will) walk away from Denver in free agency. His departure would leave a huge hole on the Denver roster – and the Nuggets would have nothing to show for it. If the team signs ‘Melo to a long-term deal and then trades him, maximizing his value, the Nuggets would be taking huge strides at building for a stronger Anthony-less future.

But, Anthony has been instrumental in leading the Nuggets to the playoffs. As a matter of fact, Denver has made the playoffs each season since Anthony joined the team. Can the Nuggets really afford to trade away a star of Anthony’s caliber, especially when he took the team to within two games of the NBA finals?

Bleacher Fan thinks so. He believes that it is in the Nuggets’ best interest to move ‘Melo now because it is not likely Denver would keep him in free agency. Bleacher Fan must prove that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Loyal Homer, however, is not convinced. He believes the Nuggets need Anthony to be competitive now and in the future. Loyal Homer has to prove that the Nuggets will emerge better in the end by hanging on to Anthony for one more season.

Gentlemen bring your best arguments – the future of a team hangs in the balance.

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