Recently I had a conversation with a few friends about which professional sports league was the hardest to win. Someone said MLB because it requires a lot of hand eye coordination. Someone else said the NBA because there are fewer players at any given time than most other sports. Others have suggested the NHL because of the physical demands placed on a player. Well I am here to argue that they are all wrong.
The toughest professional sports league in America is the NFL, and there really is no comparison.
The difference is in the numbers. For example, if we take the regular season winning percentage of each league champion (assuming the champion is the âbestâ team that season) from the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL , we can see a difference in the average win percentage compared to the past. three years.
* ties count as half victory and half loss
The NFL comes in with the highest average winning percentage at 79.2%. The NBA, NHL and MLB rank at 77.6%, 67.9% and 59.0% respectively. Now I know what you’re saying, âJosh, the percentages for the NFL and the NBA are pretty much the same. How can you clearly say that football is the most difficult? The answer is easy.
First, the 2017 and 2015 NBA champions posted some of the best regular season winning percentages of all time, so the data would be a bit clearer if it were spanned over, say, 15-20 years. Second, this comparison only shows how successful the top teams in the league are, which in fact hardly proves my claim that football is the toughest sport.
Now, if we look at the other end of the spectrum and calculate how well the worst team in each sport has done, we start to see a relationship when we take the average difference of the two sets of data.
What does this necessarily tell us? Well, you might think of the average difference as a way to measure how hard it is to win if you are a bad team versus if you are a good team. A bad NFL team can only win one game, or about 6% of their total games – sorry Browns fans. Meanwhile, a bad MLB team can expect to win almost 40% of their games. Compare that to the fact that a great NFL team can win about 80-90% of their games and a great MLB team wins about 55-60% of their games.
These numbers make sense when you think about the nature of sports. In MLB and NHL, with the two lowest average differences at 11.7% and 31.3% respectively, teamwork is not as essential to the game as it is in the NBA and NFL.
The reason I can say this with so much confidence is that in baseball and hockey, each player has a different meaning for the sport and doesn’t depend much on each other to be successful. You could argue that even if I played for an MLB team (while waiting for a phone call from the Kansas City Royals, if they read), I couldn’t take the team down at all as long as we have an outstanding pitcher. . It’s the same with the NHL and the goalie position. The strength of these selected positions greatly influences the quality of a team and its success rate. This is also a reason why the worst teams in these sports are not too far removed from the best. As long as a few selected players are doing well, you’re in good shape and can beat a team that has a more talented roster.
The same cannot be said of football. If you put me and my huge 6’0 “, 135 lb frame on the offensive line I’m going to get crumpled every time. The quarterback would be rushed or sacked every play, the running back can pretty much count my lane as a potential hole and the rest of the offensive line will have to make up for my inconsistency.If you put me on the cornerback, every wide receiver in the NFL will burn me on the roads all day, even giving a team like the Cleveland Browns a good shot at winning the game (again, sorry Browns fans) Put me as running back or quarterback and our offense immediately becomes one-dimensional and predictable.
Essentially, football requires more teamwork and interdependence between players simply because of the nature of the game. Each position requires the success of another position and is difficult to justify having an amazing player, such than Deshone Kizer (happy now Browns fans?), and poor quality anywhere else on the pitch, you would still have a decent chance of winning a game against a team that has a decent quarterback and players of a similar level to all other positions
Baseball, on the other hand, can thrive on the strength of a single player. If you throw a perfect game, how can you lose? Even if a quarterback posts a perfect quarterback score, the defense can still lose the team in the game.
Sports that usually have multiple dimensions and multiple important players are good at ensuring that good teams win and bad teams lose, which is illustrated in the average difference above. That is why, I say with great confidence, that football is the most difficult professional sport.