By Jayson Stark
You may have heard that there's some kind of big football game coming up. Well, here at Useless Info Central, we try to stay relevant. So we'll, uh, kick off this column with some football-related baseball notes:
Here's something to ponder: Football is the sport that's always praised for its spectacular competitive balance. But as loyal reader David Hallstrom reports, five different baseball teams have won the World Series over the last five years. Think that happens all the time in football? Think again.
In the NFL's 39-year Super Bowl era, there has been exactly one five-year period in which five different teams won a title -- 1984-88. And even if you include the pre-Supe era, that's the only five-year span in which the NFL can make that claim over its last 57 seasons.
Then there's this year's Super Bowl matchup -- which didn't exactly come out of nowhere. It matches one team going for its third title in four years (the Patriots) versus another team (the Eagles) that has made it to four straight conference finals.
In other words, for a sport that's supposed to be so wide open, there sure has been a lot of regularity to the NFL's postseason final four.
In fact, it turns out the NFL's final four teams actually have been more predictable over the last four years than baseball's final four. In baseball, 12 of the 30 franchises have made it to a League Championship Series over the past four seasons. In football, only 10 have been to a conference final.
Or let's take this back even more years. Over the last eight baseball postseasons, 16 of the 30 MLB franchises have been to at least one LCS (53.3 percent). That's virtually exactly the same percentage as the NFL (17 of 32, 53.1 percent). So it may be true that there's more parity in football. But it isn't true that it's tougher to predict which teams will still be standing at the end.