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Excitement mounts as postseason play approaches

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It's pretty hard for just about anyone to deny that the postseason is always a fun time, regardless of the sport you choose to follow. Personally, I always look forward to it for a number of reasons.

First of all, postseason is when things really start to matter. Especially when you come down to the local, high school level, everybody knows they're going to be a part of some kind of postseason play, regardless of how the regular season goes, but once district tournaments start, that one bad play or missed scoring opportunity that could cost your team a game carries a lot more weight.

Unlike the regular season, if a team does commit that one small error that leads to a loss, they can't just pick up and move on to the next game. That's because a loss in the postseason in most sports means the end until next year.

There are a few exceptions, of course. In professional baseball and basketball, the playoffs are played in series rather than just a one-and-done tournament style. That does, in a way, take some of the pressure off, except for the fact that any team that suffers such a setback has to come right back and play the same team in the next game and the momentum swings such things can cause are often huge.

For example, the Oklahoma City Thunder were on the receiving end of some questionable, at best, calls from officials in the first two games of last year's NBA Finals and never recovered, handing the Miami Heat the title. So, if you really think about it, even playoff formats like that essentially turn out to be a one-and-done scenario, more often than not.

Of course, there are always two sides to every coin. Take the 2004 American League Championship Series, for example, in which the New York Yankees won the first three games, only to see the Boston Red Sox come back and win the next four games to take the best-of-seven series, four games to three.

That series, however, is certainly the exception, not the rule. To my knowledge, no other team has ever come back to win a Major League Baseball playoff series after being down 3-0, no team has ever done it in the NBA and just three NHL teams have pulled off that near-miraculous feat.

In fact, according to whowins.com, Major League Baseball teams who won the first game in a best-of-seven playoff series have a .626 series winning percentage and those winning the opener in a best-of-seven series in the NBA own a staggering .783 winning percentage. The numbers are much the same in the NHL with opening-game winners taking 68.2 percent of the series played.

I get the rationale for using a series format, but let's face it. Those numbers say to me that yes, the odds of actually advancing are better in a series format, obviously, but the majority of the time, one loss still means the end of a team's playoff run.

That's why I like the system used in high school sports in which if a team loses one game in the postseason, that's it. Yes, it adds a little bit to the pressure and the sting of a single loss, but I think it's pretty undeniable that it adds at least as much to the excitement from a fan standpoint.

As many of my readers already know, many Nevada High School athletes have already felt not only the pressure of knowing the season will be over with just one more less than stellar showing, but have also felt the pain of that singular, season ending defeat. For the rest, the pressure is quickly mounting.

For the Lady Tigers softball team, it all comes to a head beginning today, when they take on either Clinton or Holden in the Class 3, District 13 semifinals, while the individual portion of the Class 1, District 12 tennis individual tournament is set to begin this weekend. The Class 1, Sectional 2 golf tournament is scheduled for Monday with one individual still alive for Nevada in Hannah Householder and the football, volleyball and cross country playoffs begin later this month.

I don't know about anybody else, but I personally always get excited when playoff time comes around and this year is no exception. Only one team can finish the season with a win and that always makes playoff time more exciting and fun for me.

Good luck to all the local athletes this postseason.

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Eric Wade
Beyond the Bench