Elton Alexander has the MAC "beat" for the Plain Dealer, which means that when there is an article on the MAC he writes it...but he also covers drag racing or some other stuff like that. Anyway, he had an article in the paper this week that proposes a theory...that the MAC (football and men's basketball) is only perceived as good when Miami is good.
It is complete gibberish. And I understand that this is a column which is by nature an opinion piece, but I must note the absolute metaphysical absence of even one fact in the article.
Here are the key statements:
Said all that to say in sports, you are only as good as your iconic programs. And that is why right now, Mid-American Conference football is bad ... because the Miami RedHawks are bad.
By "all that" he means that he asserted that MLB was no good when the Yankees were down, the NBA needs the Knicks and the Celtics, and the NFL is seen as no good when the Packers or Cowboys are not good.
I'm not going to completely pick apart the premise about the other leagues, because I want to focus on the MAC. A few points:
- I don't know when this was when baseball was down while the Yankees were down. The Yankees didn't make the playoffs last year, and baseball had the second highest attendance ever. They weren't especially good the year before and it was the highest attendance ever. The only time I can recall serious dips in baseball's popularity was after the player's went on strike and the World Series was canceled.
- The Packers were brutal for decades, during which time the NFL had meteoric growth.
- True, the NBA does rely on those franchises because they have the demographics to drive TV ratings. Meanwhile, the Knicks are a joke but I think the perception of the quality of play in the NBA is very high right now.
Anyway, I agree with him to an extent. I don't believe parity is good for a sport. I think that competition is better and fans are interested when there is structure to the storyline, and everyone knows who they are chasing and hating.
Example: Kent State and now Akron basketball, for much of the last decade, have been considered the best teams in the MAC. But first they are measured by Miami. If the RedHawks are good (and they have been in hoops) ergo, Kent and Akron must be very good. But if Miami were bad, the general perception falls to, how good can they be?What I dispute is the idea that there are "iconic" franchises, and that it is Miami in the MAC. I would argue Marshall served this purpose during their time in the MAC, and others have as well.
Mostly, though, I object to the ridiculous notion that somehow MAC football isn't really down, but only perceived to be down because Miami is bad.
The idea that people would view this differently if Miami had won some games this year is beyond stupid.
Moving on to basketball, he suggests that the MAC IS viewed positively in basketball.
Example: Kent State and now Akron basketball, for much of the last decade, have been considered the best teams in the MAC. But first they are measured by Miami. If the RedHawks are good (and they have been in hoops) ergo, Kent and Akron must be very good. But if Miami were bad, the general perception falls to, how good can they be?
First they are measured by Miami? By whom? When? Kent is measured by a huge streak of 20-win seasons and a Elite Eight appearance. These are completely independent variables. Many of the people who are supposedly doing this judging would be hard pressed to tell you if Miami was any good in any given year.
The MAC itself, in fact, is a lesser basketball conference now than it has been in many years. I measure this by 6 years since the conference won a NCAA tournament game, and 7 years since the MAC made the Sweet 16. And a 38% winning percentage against OOC D1 teams in 2007-08 with losing records against the Big West, CAA, C-USA, Horizon, Ivy, MVC, MWC, Summit and Sun Belt conferences.
And all this with Miami being fairly good. Shocking.
I said all that to say that you are only as good as you do on the field or court and that you can figure that out without looking at icons and myth. The MAC is perceived as down because it is.