Sports Commentary: Third place?

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Do we need consolation games?

By Mike Forster


Well, this World Cup business will finally be settled this Sunday.  Even though this column isn't about the World Cup, per se, I'll still throw out a prediction.  It could be way off, however, since the semifinals haven't taken place yet as this paper goes to press.  Nevertheless, I'll boldly go with Brazil over Netherlands, the former seemingly the New York Yankees of FIFA, and the latter the Buffalo Bills (three title games, three losses).

And, without knowing which teams will make the final, my prediction of that game's score:  1-0.

The crux of this column has to do with the fact that there is also a big game on Saturday afternoon.  That's when the third-place game will be held.

That's right.  Just like in the Olympics, the World Cup affords a chance for bronze-medal level glory.

Since 1934, there has been a game played for third place.  Apparently, such tilts are still fairly big deals, drawing substantial audiences.

Which got me to thinking, "Would such an approach work in some other places?"

Specifically, could the losers of MLB's league championships or the runners-up in the AFC and NFC square off with third-place glory on the line?

Logistically, it shouldn't be too difficult.  For instance, in the NFL, the third-place game could be held the weekend before the Super Bowl.

And it could be played at a site that is within driving distance of the Super Bowl venue.  For instance, if the big game were being hosted at the Super Dome in New Orleans, the third-place game could be played at LSU's Tiger Stadium.

Or, if Miami is the Super Bowl site, the runner-up game could be played at Tampa Bay or Orlando.

In baseball, the runners-up would merely use their home stadiums, so there would be no conflict with the World Series.

Ah, you're thinking, but what about conflicts on the television schedule?

Good point.  I believe the way to resolve that is to make the Bronze Series a best-of-five affair.  The first game would be played the day before the Series starts.

The remaining games would be played on the World Series off-days or on the afternoons of the dates when Series night games are scheduled.

In the NBA and the NHL, the schedule would fairly well follow that in baseball.

There is a much bigger question than whether such a setup could be pulled off, logistically.  And that big question always revolves around money.  Specifically, the making of said entity.

In order to make money, there must be a) fans in the seats b) games on television and c) eyeballs on those television sets showing those games.

In short, would there be enough interest to make such a change worthwhile?

Well, let's answer it this way:  People will watch virtually anything on television.

There's little doubt, if ESPN is making money on broadcasts of competitive eating, they'd rake it in on third-place playoffs for major sports.

And, it's not without precedent.  For example, until 1981, the NCAA men's basketball tournament had a third-place game.

Throughout the 1960s, the NFL had a thing called "The Playoff Bowl," which featured the runners-up from the league's two conferences.  This was back in the days when only the top two regular-season teams were invited to vie for the title (i.e. before playoff expansion, wild cards and the like).

Whether or not you find Vince Lombardi the greatest of all football coaches, you cannot dispute the man was not shy about letting his feelings be known.  Of the Playoff Bowl, Lombardi is quoted thusly:  "[It's] a losers' bowl for losers...a hinky-dink football game, held in a hinky-dink town, played by hinky-dink players."

I think we know how Lombardi would feel about this Saturday's World Cup match for third place.