Better is Better

Better is Better

Colin Cowherd once said “more isn’t better, better is better.” While he was applying this to the NBA and how they have too many teams, this could be applied to soccer as well. When you have more of something, it can dilute the quality. Just because Paul Pogba shoots from 35 yards 90 times in a season doesn’t mean anything if he doesn’t score those efforts. Furthermore, just because Antonio Valencia runs MORE and “tries harder” than most other players on the field, does not actually mean he is BETTER than another RB such as Nathaniel Clyne. Clubs like Liverpool and Spurs have made the mistake when selling their World Class players (Suarez and Bale respectively) of buying five mediocre players instead of a natural replacement for the player.  Man United finished behind Leicester City despite spending ridiculous sums of money.

However it’s not just teams that make the mistake. Sometimes leagues make that mistake. MLS continues to confuse more with better.  Case in point their constant expansion. Don’t give me more teams. Give me better teams. Franchises like the one in Minnesota have no business being in MLS. Give me tiers. Give me promotion. Don’t dilute the competition. Intensify it. Sponsorships depend on TV ratings which depend on QUALITY OF COMPETITION but if there is too much of something consumers will not buy in.  In fact, an article in the Harvard Business Journal from 2006 stated:  

In 2000, psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper published a remarkable study. On one day, shoppers at an upscale food market saw a display table with 24 varieties of gourmet jam. Those who sampled the spreads received a coupon for $1 off any jam. On another day, shoppers saw a similar table, except that only six varieties of the jam were on display. The large display attracted more interest than the small one. But when the time came to purchase, people who saw the large display were one-tenth as likely to buy as people who saw the small display.

Other studies have confirmed this result that more choice is not always better. As the variety of snacks, soft drinks, and beers offered at convenience stores increases, for instance, sales volume and customer satisfaction decrease. Moreover, as the number of retirement investment options available to employees increases, the chance that they will choose any decreases. These studies and others have shown not only that excessive choice can produce “choice paralysis,” but also that it can reduce people’s satisfaction with their decisions, even if they made good ones. 

So as the MLS continues to expand, viewership will continue to drop and the viewership of Liga MX will continue to rise. In January, Liga MX had 1.5 million viewers for a match in the 8-10pm ET timeslot, and it recently signed a deal with Facebook to stream 46 matches for the remainder of their season.

When I am called a “eurosnob,” I take that as a badge of honor because I understand that better is better. I don’t need to watch MORE bad soccer. I don’t have time for that, I’m married so I only get to watch three soccer games a week, and I have to pick wisely but I’d rather watch three good games than ten suboptimal games. I’d rather go to one Manchester United game than a full season of Minnesota United because better is better. The end product is what America is built upon.

As an American, I want MLS to be the best league in the world. I want us to win a World Cup. I want MLS to compete against the best, but part of the reason they never will is that they are making a critical business mistake in confusing more with better. Because after all, more isn’t better, better is better.

We also have this fear of dynasties in America. We like this faux concept of being “even” and thinking that makes for a better end product. It doesn’t.  Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are a better team than every other team, and they have done it within a league that rewards teams for sucking the previous season. New England understands that having MORE picks in a draft does not translate to being a better team because better is better.  In fact, they get players to take a pay cut to play for them because those players want to win a Super Bowl. More isn’t Better. Better is Better.  Don’t believe me? Ask Eric Decker how it felt to move from having Peyton Manning as QB to Geno Smith and not be in the playoffs.       

The Los Angeles Galaxy, owners of 5 MLS cup titles, have done so by being better and attracting better. When you’re competing in a global market for talent, such as the Galaxy have to do, the appeal of a good city trumps a lot of other factors. They can bend rules because World Class players would prefer to play in Los Angeles as opposed to Kansas City.

The University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball program has a coach (John Calipari) that believes in the same thing. Four years of college is a waste of time when some players (LeBron) are NBA ready after high school. However, the NCAA needed a way to get those players into their schools. Eventually the NCAA compromised and the NBA now requires one year of University basketball play. What is that player learning in one year? Not a whole lot when the player was already NBA ready. Coach Calipari believes that more years of college for these players isn’t better. Better is better, and if they are NBA ready they should go.

So let’s get over this false notion of thinking everything in sports is equal because they’re not. LeBron convinced Kevin Love to take a pay cut to come to Cleveland to win a title because more money isn’t always better. Especially when you’re surrounded by terrible players. All the NBA drafts for the next ten years won’t get the New York Knicks a title because better is better.

Coaches, players, teams, and leagues understand that more isn’t better. More possession doesn’t always equal winning. More money doesn’t guarantee a championship. More teams doesn’t mean your league is any good. Give me better over more.

John Babbitt

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