A fairly quick thought as we head into the finals of the National Lacrosse League playoffs:
The final two rounds of the postseason feature a "best-of-two" format, which has been a little tough to explain to outsiders. Both teams get a home game, and if it's tied after those two games, a 10-minute mini-game is played to decide who advances or who wins the championship. As it approached, no one in the sport seemed to find it satisfactory, although the idea of having a home playoff game went over pretty well.
Sure enough, both division finals went to the mini-game. You know by now how Calgary defeated Edmonton, and Rochester beat Buffalo. Barely.
Now, is this a fair system? Probably not. Two teams are more or less beat after 60 minutes of play, and to start over is a little odd. One bounce can be a little too important in determining the outcome.
I would think a better system would be for the first two rounds to be a best-of-one, with the finals set for best-of-three. It would still fill up five weeks, but would add more fairness. Commissioner George Daniel said on Saturday night that the league would see how the system worked, and determine whether to continue with the "best-of-twos" or tinker a bit.
But here's the one catch in all of this.
Saturday's game in Rochester was at the least one of the most dramatic sporting events I have ever attended.
The tension in the building during that mini-game was amazing. It started when the Bandits picked up a penalty in the early going, a call that still had some players mumbling well after the game was over even though Buffalo killed it off. When the Bandits took the early lead and were holding on to it, the tension merely went up. And when Rochester scored with a little more than two minutes left in regulation, the game was almost painful to watch until Rochester won about two minutes gone in overtime. And I didn't even have a rooting interest in the teams.
The obvious comparison would be to a Game Seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I saw the 1997 game between the Sabres and Senators, which I believe in Buffalo's only Game Seven win in history. That was very dramatic too.
The difference is that there is more scoring in indoor lacrosse than there is in hockey. When one team carried the ball over the center line last night, there was a distinct possibility that the attacking team could score. So there was a great deal of relief when it didn't, and the other team and its fans started to worry when the ball came back the other way. In hockey, an offensive rush always has a chance of scoring, but the odds are against it.
Obviously all sports have their dramatic moments, particulary when everything is on the line. But I was somewhat unprepared for how this particular game in Rochester played out.
Now the league will have a decision to make. Do the stunning theatrics make up for the lack of fairness in the format? That will be a fascinating decision to follow.
-- Budd Bailey