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Parity in the NFL vs. MLB

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I don't know how many of y'all follow the NFL, but I am a big fan of not only professional football but the National Football League in and of itself. It is a product which causes even the most casual sports fan to take note of its goings on during the season. Whether it be the star power of Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and Ed Reed, the drama of Favre v. Packers, or the simple joy that enveloped the down trodden city of Detroit following their sole victory of 2009- a victory that ended a season-plus worth of unimpeded losing, pro football is set up in a way to maximize the expenditure of emotion. Hate, love, disappointment, pride are all felt on a week in and week out basis. The only characteristic the NFL doesn't bring out in fans is apathy.

Apathy from fans, that is. From the organizations themselves one could make the argument that more than a handful of teams are waving white flags through Week 6 of the season. Realistically, eight teams in the 32 team NFL are for all intents and purposes out of the running not only for a playoff spot but for respectability. The Paper Bag Eight as I'm dubbing them: St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Tennessee and Oakland, will all struggle to use more than one hand to count their victories on the season. For a league that prides itself on parity, the 2009 season will be best remembered for the most defined "haves and have nots" in recent memory. Why, it's been downright....MLB-like.

The league without a salary cap encourages big spending on players, and does little to reign in the recklessness that has become a trademark of this cavalier attitude towards financial expenditures. Those days and ways have been curtailed to an extent over the past year or so, with the recession as well as a new-found (in some circles) emphasis on intelligent free agent signings based on enhanced statistical analysis. What has been the result, is that while the playoff teams in MLB are by and large heavy spenders, baseball has developed a certain degree of parity.

This is far from the most scientific way at comparing the two leagues, and the sports don't exactly make in season comparisons simple, but consider the fact that the with Week 6 complete for all but two NFL clubs, the season is now 35.3% finished. As I mentioned earlier, eight teams (25% of the entire league) are already out of the playoff hunt completely. These teams are better off sending their scouts to Austin, Norman an Gainesville than Minneapolis, Atlanta or Foxboro. Other franchises like the Jaguars, Panthers, Redskins and Texans don't stand much of a chance of competing either. That bumps us up to 12 of 32 (37.5%) of NFL teams that shouldn't hold out hope for playing football in January. Not exactly what we've come to expect.

Now take MLB at a similar point in its 2009 season. I figure that June 7th was about the same point in the baseball regular season as the NFL season stands currently. Here are the standings on that date. In my opinion, going back to this date, ten of the thirty MLB teams didn't stand much of a chance to be in the playoff hunt. (For those wondering, yes, I consider the Astros at this point to be in the mix. Milwaukee, although in first, was a flawed team, and neither the Cubs nor Cards at that point seemed all that daunting an obstacle either.) So, that 33.3% figure may be somewhat close to the NFL percentage I laid out, mind the fact that one of those teams that appeared out of it in MLB, the Colorado Rockies, would go on to win the NL Wild Card.

Just some food for thought. If nothing else, be thankful to not be a Raider fan.

Another coincidence: the most egregious losers in the NFL: Oakland. The longest standing losers in MLB: Pittsburgh. Mascots: Raiders and Pirates...that's some straight Twilight Zone stuff.