Apparently, I’ve got a lot of anger surrounding my sports fandom so this will probably be a regular feature here at the Bang.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to articulate this recently, because as an Ohio State fan (and a sad Browns fan), I’ve found myself drawn into some of these pointless sports bar arguments. But they’re idiotic and extremely annoying. So let’s start with the transitive property of college football.
The Transitive Property Or I Never Bothered To Learn What That Actually Means
This is one that’s been popping up recently in two specific fan circles: Virginia Tech fans and Florida fans. As far as I can logically tell, it is rooted in the mathematical transitive property of equality which states that if a=b and b=c then c=a. Which works with numbers, but not sports teams. In a sports context this idea is supposedly expressed by team A lost to team B who lost to team C so C is equal to or better than A. Which is just plain stupid, since we all understand that a singular win or loss cannot be reduced to simple terms like that. There are a lot of moving parts when football team A beats football team B and there’s no guarantee that the result would be replicated at a future date. Need a real-life example? Okay then, let’s travel way back to the 2011 season, specifically November 5. #1 LSU beats #2 Alabama 9-6 in overtime in what is billed as the “Game of the Century”, because that’s original. Fast forward to January 9 when the same two teams meet for a national title and Alabama trucks LSU 21-0. Same teams, different outcomes. Why? Did one team have injuries? Did Alabama have LSU scouted well? I dunno and this isn’t the place to examine that. I figure someone by now has written about that game.
So imagine my annoyance as an Ohio State fan and one who like to practice logic when I start seeing memes pop up proclaiming Florida as the Transitive National Champion because they beat ECU, who beat Virginia Tech, who beat Ohio State.
That’s clearly not one of them. That’s a shitty mock-up I threw together in 5 minutes because it was easier than stealing one of theirs. But makes total sense doesn’t it? Florida beat a mid-major who caught the Hokies on a bad day who caught Ohio State on a bad night so hand them the trophy right?
Fine, let me give you the benefit of the doubt and pretend that this is how football works (which it doesn’t, ever). Well logically, there’s really only one place that this national championship trophy can truly and rightfully rest.
So here’s our lineage so far. Virginia Tech went into the Shoe on September 6 and beat the eventual champs 35-21. I’m not even going to get into the excuses about it being JTB’s first start and the effect of losing Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes got beat, end of story. Now that same Hokie team met a stroke of bad luck the very next week on their home field when East Carolina beat them 28-21. Now here’s where the timelines diverge. I’m not going to the Birmingham Bowl where UF beat ECU 28-20 (By the way Gator fans, your trying to talk shit being the Birmingham Bowl champs. Really?). No, we go to November 1, when a ranked ECU squad with an unbeaten record in the American went to the Linc and got beat by Temple 20-10. That’s embarrassing enough. But we go on, because the trophy doesn’t stay in Philly. You see, earlier in the year Navy came to town and got by the Owls 31-24. But we can’t keep it in Annapolis because a few weeks later the Midshipmen would fall at home to Western Kentucky 36-27. But the Hilltoppers cannot claim their first national championship because they fell on the road in Conference USA play to Florida Atlantic by a count of 45-38. That will take us to our final stop, as the trophy finally can rest as it will sit in Birmingham where the Gators wanted to lay claim to it all along. You see, FAU lost to UAB 31-28 on November 1. That clinches the Transitive National Championship for the Blazers because their team doesn’t exist anymore and are you really going to take this one last hurrah away from those poor kids who now have no scholarship because their sport was cut? What kind of a monster are you?
See, any logical fallacy can be taken to the extreme. No one is going to make this, but it’s just the same as Virginia Tech and Florida fans grasping at straws to try to explain away average or mediocre seasons. It’s not a good look is all I’m saying. I can say it from a position of authority because I’m a Cleveland Browns fan and sometimes the transitive argument is the only way we can find a silver lining in the shitstorm that is every season since the franchise’s return for us.
Count the Rings! or What Have You Done For Me Lately?
That transitions nicely into my second idiotic argument which I like to call the “count the rings” game. Being a Cleveland fan, I get subjected to endless taunting from Pittsburgh Steeler fans who love to wave their 6 Super Bowl titles in ours, and everyone’s faces. When you politely explain that 6 championship are nice, but talk to us when you match our 8, they explode. BWAHAHAHAHA! YOU HAVEN’T WON A SUPER BOWL YOU PATHETIC FUCK. THOSE TITLES BEFORE THE REAL CHAMPIONSHIP DON’T COUNT!
I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the spirit here. While it is correct that all of the Cleveland Browns’ championship lie before the Super Bowl era, that doesn’t discount the fact that they did win the National Football League or its predecessor 8 times. Why does this matter? Well, we don’t do this in any other sport with any other team. (Ed. note: there is a similar bone of contention between Montreal Canadien fans and the rest of the league, but a lot of it is in French and I don’t have the time or energy to translate) The New York Yankees are the most successful American sports franchise with 27 championships, but you don’t hear anyone saying they really only have 14 titles because the other 13 were before 1950, which is being considered the start of the modern era of baseball. The Boston Celtics get to keep all 17 of their championship banners, not just the one they’ve won since the “modern era” of the NBA began in 1989. If you win the league, you win the league, period.
But that’s not the only reason I find this article specious. To me, counting the rings only works when you’re comparing individual players, not teams. A run of championships, like the 4 won by the Steelers in the mid-70’s are very impressive. However, that’s a nod to the players and coaches that were Steelers for those 4 seasons, and doesn’t prove the moral superiority of today’s Steelers. They’ve had ups and downs to like every franchise. To me, every past title sans the most recent passes into Rafiki territory.
So the only guys that get to play that game to me are the Seahawks. Until they get beat, then it passes to the next guy. If you play the “we were soooo good in the past so that means we’re always good” card, you are the ignorant fan. Unfortunately, the ignorant are always willing to be the first and loudest to show off their ignorance.