What sport (pro or college) has the best postseason? Why?
Four main points:
the tournament is spread out over a digestible period of time.
regional and super regional sites make home-crowd fan experiences possible.
double-elimination makes anything possible.
The College World Series is something akin to a rite of passage after a successful season. The fact that the finals are contested in the same place every year should not be discounted; much like the ‘tradition like no other' in April, Omaha's lights beckon the height of summer. Tradition builds, and stories compound to enhance the experience. It just means more to accomplish something in the footsteps of those before you. Although we no longer enjoy Old Rosenblatt's squeaky (read: bad) seats and live music, I can still hear the echoes of leather and aluminum and an eruption of voices almost 5 years later.
We don't get to experience a postseason as Gamecocks for the first time in sixteen years, but that doesn't change my love for the CWS.
For me it's a tie. As far as overall excitement level, I'd have to go with the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just to see players leaving everything on the ice each night knowing that they're going home if they don't win the series is always a sight to see, even if my team hasn't been in it in some time. Right up there is the NFL Playoffs, simply because it's do or die each and every time out. To see that culminate in the Super Bowl, where one play/player could change the course of a particular game, is always a treat.
I'm going with the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and not just because my team is in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in six years. The game moves so fast and there's such high intensity and excitement in (almost) every game, I think it's hard not to get wrapped up in watching, even if you're not a fan. I also really enjoy the handshake line after every round, because even though you know the players who just lost have to feel just terrible, it's really cool to see them all come together in a show of sportsmanship (even if it's a required show of sportsmanship).
You will be shocked - shocked! - to learn that I think the answer is the NCAA Tournament.
This has always felt a bit odd to me, because the inherent unfairness of other postseasons really gets at me. The NFL playoffs just says "hey, forget about those first 16 games, now they really matter!" Hockey and the NBA can be great, but there's just so much fat and they drag out. Baseball has slowly worked to makes its own postseason worthless by overexpanding (increasing the randomness of the winners and making it more likely a bad team makes a run, a la last year's Royals). And the NCAA baseball tournament, love it though I do, is particularly stupid to me - for some reason, you have to win fewer games to win the regional just because you win your first game. This has and never will make sense to me from a fairness perspective. Plus, baseball was never meant to be a tournament sport, particularly when teams are close an the stakes are high. Again, the excitement is there, but the fairness isn't.
And yet, here I sit defending the most inherently unfair tournament there is in sports. How do I justify it? Because there's really not a better way. NCAA basketball has over 350 teams, and unless you're going full-scale European where there's promotion and relegation (which, of all the places in America to do this, NCAA hoops would be a particularly bad place), there never will be a way to separate all those teams in just 30 games. So we end up where we are - a thoroughly entertaining three weeks where the best teams get a slight benefit (with the 15 and 16 seeds) and everyone else knows they need to win six tough games.
It's exciting as hell for the first weekend, it's a lot of great basketball on the second, and then there's high-stakes games in the third. And then it's over - long enough to savor, short enough not to go stale. It's an inherently imperfect idea for an inherently perfect sport, but if you can't get fairness anyway, why not go all in on excitement?
They say, the NBA comes up with it, the NFL perfects it and MLB makes the most money off it. Meaning that the NBA are the innovators, NFL implements it to perfection and MLB generates the most cash from it. So when it comes to the best postseason, I gotta say the NFL (in a Jim Mora voice)Playoffs? Playoffs! Playoffs?!? The NFL has perfected the playoff system. They do it in such a way that generates a lot of anticipation, excitement and media buzz (even the highest TV ratings). MLB and NBA can just have extremely long and boring playoff games - like the Hawks and Cavs series. But last year the NFL playoffs, wow, there were some great games. The She-hawks yanked a win from the Packers and that was a memorable one even if you didn't like either team. As others have said, the NFL playoffs doesn't drag on. Its over in a blink of an eye, and leaving us with football withdrawals.
All postseasons are great because watching sports being played at a high level with high stakes is one of the best things in the world. But I have to agree with DC3 that the NCAA baseball tournament is the best. All of the reasons he lists are good ones, and I also particularly love the fact that "Omaha" is synonymous with the CWS because it's held in the same place each season. I think part of the reason for my deep love for the college baseball postseason is that I've been able to experience it personally. I've only been to one postseason game in a sport other than college baseball, but I've been to at least a dozen postseason baseball games and of course I've watched my team make more than one incredible run through to win it all. ChickenHoops makes some valid points about the flaws of the tournament, but those have never dulled the intensity or the excitement of watching it for me.