The Dire Need for a Reverse Finals System!

I’ve been watching lots of football. My well-behaved, subjective preference is for Football Code X, but that is immaterial, because my gripe is with any football competition involving a Finals System, whether it be Soccer, American Football, either of the Rugby codes, Australian Football, Gaelic football – perhaps even Table Football if I understood its complexities – or any other game that might exist out there in the “real world” supposedly located beyond the perimeter of the CBD.

(Actually, of this “real world” I wouldn’t know. Like all respectable economists, I strive to follow the counsel of the Gospel of Thomas, Logion 115, to be “in the world, but not aware of the world”, lest a psychological identification with the elite developed in my “intellectual” infancy at the School of Economics falls away, leaving in its place only apostasy – egalitarianism, pacifism, socialism, etc.)

Currently there are at least two things horribly wrong with the Finals System:

1. Lowly ranked teams that fail to qualify get to do nothing for the entire period of finals.

2. The Wooden Spooner evades maximum humiliation, slinking away almost unnoticed at the end of the home-and-away season.

Neither of these things will do. Players with too much time on their hands and unafraid of humiliation are a recipe for disaster. Many will use the time to do things unrelated to football. Others will start to “think for themselves” or “get ideas”, even question the system itself. For instance, is it even right that in football we have winners and losers? Are our gazillion dollar salaries really justified while some children starve and others go without iPods? No! It can’t be. Keep players active and unquestioning. Preserve the system.

This is why there is a desperate need for a Reverse Finals System involving all low-ranking teams to be run concurrently with the existing Finals System and introduced no later than immediately.

In the Reverse Finals System, the aim would be to win enough games to achieve elimination, thereby avoiding the Wooden Spoon. It could be run the same way as the Finals System (whichever system a particular competition adopts), only in reverse.

For example, in one league existing in the world, there are currently eighteen teams. The Top Eight qualify for a four-week finals series. To reach the Grand Final – the winner of which is awarded the Flag – the top four teams need to win two games from no more than three attempts, the bottom four, three wins from as many attempts.

In the Reverse Finals System, the Bottom Eight would be relegated to a corresponding four-week series. To avoid the Reverse Grand Final – the loser of which would be the recipient of the Wooden Spoon, strident criticism and acute embarrassment – the top four teams of the Bottom Eight could afford to lose twice, the bottom four only once, in as many as three games.

Simple and intuitive.

There is, however, a minor flaw with the Reverse Finals System when applied to this particular competition (and maybe also when applied to other competitions – who knows?) in that it leaves the ninth and tenth ranked teams unoccupied during the finals period, these teams neither eligible for Finals nor consigned to Reverse Finals. Players from these teams might think that they have escaped to Neverland, and admittedly I nearly gave up on the proposal myself when first noticing the problem.

But no!

These teams will play a (yes, completely pointless) best of four series to determine Ninth spot. If the series ends in a 2-2 draw, they will both be placed Ninth. (It’s obvious, really. Ten being neither a perfect square nor prime, Tenth spot must be unoccupied in this scenario.)

For those who feel that there are more pressing topics I could have broached today, consider the economic benefits of the Reverse Finals System. At the macro level:

1. It keeps players from lower-ranked teams in “good habits” and more enticing to poachers. This exerts downward pressure on player salaries in general. A ready-made nominal price anchor!

2. It maintains strong – but not overly strong – levels of playing activity across the entire competition instead of boom times for the finals cohort at the expense of a slump for everybody else. Demand stabilization par excellence!

At the micro level, there are attractive incentive properties. At the moment, with no Reverse Finals System in place, there is little reason for players to care about making finals. They know that by missing the finals they can sit around doing nothing – or worse, agitating for revolution! – and still receive an income. Reverse Finals will reinforce a protestant work ethic and a win-at-all-cost mentality for all.


19 thoughts on “The Dire Need for a Reverse Finals System!

  1. Great, Peter. With these additional games, scorekeepers will be forced to inject new points into the system. Thereby making them worthless. In fact, teams will want to get rid of them. To — oh, I don’t know — the OPPOSING TEAM?

  2. Neil: Thanks for the sobering link. I don’t know the details of the boy’s analysis, so obviously can’t comment on that, but generally speaking economic policymakers seem to be hellbent on ensuring life will not be worthwhile for many people, or at least nowhere near what it could be. Insanity rules the day.

  3. Trixie: In my lifetime I have already seen rampant inflation – quite possibly hyperinflation – in more than one code of football. I have in mind the rugby codes, one of which increased the value of a try from 4 to 5 points, the other from 3 to 4. These are 20 and 33 per cent escalations at single pen strokes! It might seem that these instances only represent once-off price increases, not inflationary spirals, but this would ignore the destabilizing dynamics introduced – indeed, boasted about by the authorities – in that the changes encouraged more attacking, open play in the hope of cashing in on a try rather than a less valuable field goal. I would imagine the impact on total points scored has been disastrous, although I have not taken the time to compare time periods. Research is not really my bag.

    I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) that in American football a touchdown is worth an outlandish 6 points. In my preferred code of football, 6 points is also on offer for a mere goal. (Plus they award points – called behinds – for kicking through some kind of secondary goal posts.) Not surprisingly, the result is an avalanche of scoring and a decimated value of a single point.

    I admit that soccer appears to have inflation under control. But for how long?

  4. Interesting link. Thanks, Magpie. Considering this is (meant to be) an economics blog, I suspect your comment is more on topic than quite a few of my posts, this latest one included. 🙂

    Incidentally, I have long thought highly of Yanis, and also of Joe Halevi (who is mentioned in the linked post). I had the good fortune to be taught by both of them as an undergraduate.

  5. I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) that in American football a touchdown is worth an outlandish 6 points.

    You are correct, although I have no idea what a “behind” is. Regardless, you may have just turned me into a sports fan. Armed with this new point of view, instead of sobbing when forced to watch football, I shall merely heckle any team that scores a touchdown:


    My psyche thanks you, as always.

  6. PeterC,

    Sorry I didn’t reply before, I was a bit busy doing my own thing in my blog. Writing a fair bit lately.

    So, you were taught by both!? Cool, man!

    Varoufakis seems to have a good understanding of Marxism, but I am not sure he is a Marxist. Tell me something: do you have any inkling about his personal position?

  7. Good stuff, Magpie. I always enjoy your blog posts.

    My impression is that Varoufakis is non-doctrinaire and difficult to pigeonhole.

  8. Jesus Christ!

    To be honest, I haven’t been paying too much attention to the general situation in Europe. Basically, I have focused on the politics of the past Greek elections and in Spain and that’s essentially it. Occasionally, popular press.

    Today I went around exploring blogs, but mostly reading comments left in response to them.

    God, the way the debate is being conducted, in blogs by ACADEMICS, is really awful. Imagine how things are in more popular blogs.

    People throwing indiscriminate slander against whole nations… The most despicable things from side to side.

    If this animosity is any indication of things to come (I hope not!), there’s a good chance the European drama is not going to end well.

    Have a look at the comments to Varoufakis

    And to Kantoos

    And this is the sobering bit: those are the level-headed ones.

  9. @PeterC

    You know what’s ironic? A few years ago, just after the US housing bubble burst, every newspaper/magazine cover all over the world was asking whether that was the end of capitalism.

    When K. Rudd took office, locally, things were more moderate: he went around giving away Keynes’ General Theory, because “we were all Keynesians now”.

    Fast forward 4 years, and things start to look very much like the 1930s, indeed.

    Have a look at Michael Pascoe’s comments today about migration to Australia, unemployment and social welfare:

    Job snobs are holding us back

    So, the idea is to bring foreign workers to become a poorly paid underclass, because Australians are job snobs, who need to be forced to work.

    I don’t see this helping foreign workers. But the insult lavished on Caucasian Australians did not go unnoticed. Google for the string

    “Tens of thousands of low-paid migrants could be allowed into Australia to work as waiters, kitchenhands and cooks” Stormfront

    (Stormfront describes itself in its logo)

    What guys like the moron Pascoe (but not only him, also politicians, business people, economists and pretty much all petit bourgeois progressives) are doing is planting the seeds of racial discord here.

    The only people to get something for nothing here are the psychopathic neo-Nazi.

  10. That’s “Huggy” from our best ever horror movie, Koala Bears Growl 2. The Film Classification Board ruled real bears would be too scary for “horror”.

    (Assuming that is a koala bear. I’m really not familiar with anything that’s not coal. And China couldn’t care less.)

  11. I actually did an internet search for “Koala Bears Growl 2”. Furthermore, I would have watched it. Even though I know koalas do not growl. LIES.

    Your mention of China got me thinking though. Criminals, communists, koalas? Is there a link? So I ask the internet: Are there koalas in China?

    Answer: Yes. Chinese Koalas are larger and more aggressive than their Australian cousins.

    While the Australian Koala will eat only eucalyptus leaves (and drink only beer brewed in Tasmania or South Australia) the Chinese Koala is far less selective.

    Chinese Koalas are seldom kept in captivity as they are prone to depression and problem gambling. There are no recorded cases of Chinese Koalas successfully breeding in captivity.

    Now I am convinced you are messin’ with me.


  12. It’s true. There was no such movie. A casualty of cutbacks to funding for the arts in these neoliberal hole-in-the-ozone days.

  13. That’s “Huggy” from our best ever horror movie, Koala Bears Growl 2. The Australian Classification Board ruled real bears would be too scary for “horror”.

    As you try to walk this back, I was able to confirm most of what you say. Here’s the trailer for Koala Bears Growl 1: I saw a sign, they just push each other until one gives up.

    Famous last words: This is the most boring fight I’ve ever seen. Ooooooh, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god…

    You know, this all started out AS A JOKE. Turns out I’m the only one not laughing. And my world view is crumbling around me.

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