Game Seven. I can remember three years ago when LeBron James and his Miami Heat were coming off a historic Game Six victory in the 2013 finals against the San Antonio Spurs. In a post-game press conference, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra expressed his excitement for the deciding game by describing it as the “best two words in team sports.”
Well, that’s debatable. Any hardcore NFL fan would tell you the best two words are “Super Bowl.” Athletes that compete internationally would probably say “World Champion” or “Gold Medal” are the best. A die-hard soccer fan would probably tell you that the words “World Cup” epitomize team competition. And what about March Madness?
Don’t get me wrong, a Game Seven is undoubtedly exciting. Game Seven culminates two teams trading blows back and forth over the course of six games, neither club gaining an advantage over the other. Fighting tooth and nail to the very end of each 48+ minute ballgame. Sacrificing blood, sweat, and tears to notch one last game out of four needed to win is very exciting for us, as fans of the game, to watch.
But what I often struggle with is how if people like Coach Spo believe that a winner-take-all game is what epitomizes competition, why do the NBA, MLB, and NHL all incorporate a seven-game series into their championships? I’ll admit that I began following the NFL before any other league, but if the viewership truly wants a max excitement and pressure contest, doesn’t it make sense to play a winner-take-all game? When you think about it, there’s a reason we love the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The yearly upsets and bracket-busting Cinderellas would be nearly impossible if every round was a series of games to prove who was the better team. Of course, with a 68-team tournament, implementing a series into every match-up would be a nearly never-ending tournament of games. But the single-elimination is just what makes us love it so much. The stakes are higher; the pressure is on. Upsets are WAY more likely, and we find ourselves cheering for teams that we had never before heard of– like George Mason in 2006 or VCU in 2011– to be the David that takes down the Goliath. Because those upset stories are what we love to hear about as hard-working Americans.
So let me ask you, would you rather watch a championship like the NBA Playoffs, a system built to prove one team as the undisputed champion, or the free-for-all frenzy of March Madness, where maybe the best team doesn’t win, but we get the chance to see Cinderella?
Tonight, May 30, at 9:00 p.m., the Oklahoma City Thunder take on the Golden State Warriors in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals. In my opinion, this is exactly what I would want out of a seven game series. The underdog came to play, but just when you thought they had it in the bag, the ever-resilient defending champs refused to back down, leaving one free-for-all, winner-take-all game to decide who will advance to the NBA Finals. I can only hope that Game Seven will live up to the hype of combining the emotions of all six prior games into one competitive thriller.