In the NBA, teams tank to get better draft position. In baseball, tanking has more to do with saving money, and in turn making money. As a result, tales of baseball tanking typically don’t land on the PFT radar screen, since NFL teams would (do) tank not to save money but to enhance draft standing. This specific story about tanking, however, is worth your time on a somewhat slow Saturday.
Via Deadspin, an upcoming interview of Marlins partial owner and CEO Derek Jeter by Bryant Gumbel of HBO includes a contentious exchange, with Jeter (who was beloved as a player and who quickly has become reviled as an executive) not taking well to talk of tanking.
It started with Jeter actually asking Bryant Gumbel “What is . . . tanking?” And it went downhill from there.
Jeter argues that the team isn’t tanking because the team is competing, and he refuses to entertain the distinction between bad players competing and good players competing. He also accuses Gumbel of being “mentally weak,” and Jeter glosses over the inherent difference between competing and contending.
The story caught my eye because of the clumsy, awkward, condescending manner in which Jeter handles himself, proving yet again that the mere fact that a person played a sport at a high level doesn’t mean he has any business running a sports team. It also underscores the reality that, regardless of the reason, a fundamental disconnect exists between the importance of making fans believe that winning is the only thing while also making decisions based on broader business considerations that sometimes run contrary to doing everything necessary to win.
For NFL teams, those business considerations are painfully obvious. If you’re already bad, be as bad as you can be, in order to lay the foundation to get better. As long as the draft is based on the worst teams getting dibs, the games will not have full and complete integrity, because some of the games at the end of the season will feature teams whose management realizes that the only way to truly win is to lose.