February 21, 2009

The Final Four: fine-tuning the format

As a fan, we're supposed to be happy if there are more games to be played. More games = more opportunities to bash the "squatter jeer" or scream insanities to the referees, to opposing players, and to the fans at the other side of the stadium.

But are these "tiebreaker games" and the way the Final Four tournaments held, are fair? Fair to the players, coaches, and most importantly, to the fans?

Before we get going, lets see how tournaments from other countries conduct their competitions. But before going international, there is one significant factor different from local sports from sports held elsewhere: in the Philippines, there are no home and away teams. Hence, games are held supposedly on neutral grounds.

In Europe and elsewhere aside from the Philippines, North America and Australia, there are main two competitions being held in a season. One is the "league" competition, and the other is the "cup" competition. The "league" competition is always deemed to be the more prestigious of the two.

In "league" competitions, teams play each other twice, home and away. Each result has a corresponding point: in soccer, its 3 for a win, 1 for a draw, and none for a loss. In rugby, there are bonus points for higher scores and higher margins. In basketball, it's 2 points for a win and 1 point for a loss.

After all of the games are played, the teams are ranked by basis of points earned: the team with the most points wins the championship outright. If there are ties, there are several tie-breaking criteria in order to break the ties (the first step is either the points earned on games between the tied teams or the goal/points difference for all games); there are no extra games to decide which team goes higher, unless all of the tiebreaking criteria is used up, which has never happened in the top leagues.

In "cup" competitions, teams are drawn together to face off, with one team playing at home; the team that loses is eliminated, and the winning team advances for it to be drawn again with another team. If there is a tie, the game is replayed at the other team's stadium; in theory replays can go on forever but they've devised ways to prevent this with the use of overtime (or "extra time") and penalty shootouts. In other cases, there are 2 legs, each team plays at home, and the scores are added up. The team with the better score advances, if there is a tie, the team with the most points scored on the road advances, or they use extra time or shootouts.

The league and cup competitions are done together, so in effect, a team plays at least in 2 competitions some time in the sporting season.

For the format used in the States, visit this space tomorrow.

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