As defined by Webster, it is “1) the effort of two or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third party by offering the best favorable terms or 2) a contest between rivals.” Both definitions apply to the world of sports and now with the District Four baseball and softball playoffs underway
As defined by Webster, it is “1) the effort of two or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third party by offering the best favorable terms or 2) a contest between rivals.”
Both definitions apply to the world of sports and now with the District Four baseball and softball playoffs underway the spirit of the competition will be ratcheted up a notch as teams coming off of successful regular seasons will all be reaching for the gold that awaits just one team at the tournament’s conclusion. Sports themselves are defined by competition. The better the games, the more interest is generated, and unlike the regular season, blowout wins are the exception, not the rule.
While the PIAA decision a couple of years ago to expand the various classifications of the playoff format as a solution to playoff parity fails to address the overall inequity of the elephant in the room (private/charter schools vs. public schools), it is a step forward in trying to achieve a more competitive balance by pairing schools of similar enrollment size.
For decades (and heightened by the 1986 movie “Hoosiers”) the Indiana High School basketball tournament was one open-class competition. It didn’t matter the size of the school, public or private; everyone was welcome to compete with only one team left standing. Love it or hate it, that was a different era, and we all know times have changed.
Perhaps the closest thing we have to that concept left standing around these parts is the annual Backyard Brawl High School baseball tournament that was played earlier this month. That yearly classic features AAAAAA Williamsport, AA South Williamsport, and AAA rivals Loyalsock and Montoursville. Despite the disparity in enrollment sizes, the event excites the participants and the two-day competition level exhibits “the best favorable terms.”
With the passing of time, the rivalry and competition that existed in the old West Branch Conference is a thing of the past. That well-revered league at one time was comprised of Bald-Eagle Nittany, Jersey Shore, Montoursville, South Williamsport, Muncy, Montgomery, Hughesville, Warrior Run and for a time Loyalsock and Lewisburg. Area fans loved that league. Travel was at a minimum. Competition was keen, and public interest was high.
Then came the imbalances. The smaller schools couldn’t keep up with the larger schools. The competitive balance waned, and schools sought other alternatives. Eventually, ‘the Branch splintered and then broke.’ Years later the advent of the statewide PIAA playoff system made it less attractive for bigger schools to play smaller schools, and decades-old rivalries began to disappear.
High schools sought competition with schools their own size. Leagues like the Mid-Penn, the CSC (Central Susquehanna Conference) and the current multi-tiered Heartland Athletic Conference emerged. Recognizing the preference for competitive balance, the HAC divided itself into three levels of play trying to place like-sized schools into three eight-team divisions. On paper that seemed like a reasonable plan. But games are not played on paper.
Have you ever gone shopping and purchased something that was advertised as ‘one size fits all?’ The problem with that concept is that while one-size may fit many, it doesn’t fit all. It is similar to the athletic programs of most area high schools. Some schools may be very good at one sport and less competitive in others. Unless schools have larger enrollments or succeed in attracting skilled athletes from other areas, merely grouping schools by enrollment size does not achieve competitive balance.
Currently, discussions are taking place regarding the make-up of the HAC. Reportedly there are movements afoot by schools seeking alternatives to the league make-up and the resulting competitive imbalance issues within its membership.
This is not a call for the ‘everyone gets a trophy concept.’ Excellence in any field needs to be appreciated and applauded. Southern Columbia football, Loyalsock basketball, Montoursville wrestling and the extended former dominance of the Hughesville girls’ tennis program have every right to point with pride to what they have accomplished.
High School athletics have proven to be a very important fabric in the lives of those who have competed. The outcomes of these contests are always recorded in wins & losses, and important lessons are learned from both. But very little can be gained by continued ‘mercy rule’ drubbings of over-matched teams regardless of their enrollment classification.
Perhaps it would make more sense to schedule games with more of an eye to competitive balance.
Tribute To Father John Manno To Be Part of This Year’s Annual 9-11 Coalition Memorial Motorcycle Ride
- Local News
- September 11, 2019
- September 11, 2019
- September 11, 2019