Monday, December 20, 2010

North vs. South in Sports

December 20, 1860, 150 years ago today: The State Legislature of South Carolina decides it is better to betray the United States of America, to commit treason, than to live in a country governed by a man who was, by the standards of the time, a moderate on the issue of slavery, President-elect Abraham Lincoln.

Over the next 5 years, we're going to hear a lot about the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War. Hopefully, current President Barack Obama -- the son of an African immigrant to America rather than a descendant of slaves -- will remind everyone that the Civil War was completely about slavery, which was completely evil.

The North was right. The South was wrong. The Confederates were traitors. They deserved to lose, and they did. It's time the South manned up about it.

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To get this back on a lighter note: How many North vs. South contests have there been in sports?

I'm going to limit this to the major leagues, partly because that will make it shorter, and partly to eliminate the South's advantage in college football. (No Alabama, no Florida, no Texas, no Oklahoma, and, this season, no Auburn.)

I'm also going to limit it to the Finals in each sport. Furthermore, let's define "North" and "South":

The North is the Union, the States that were in the Union as late as the Appomattox Surrender, April 9, 1865: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, California, Minnesota, Oregon, Kansas, West Virginia, Nevada. This in spite of the fact that Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri were, technically slave States until the war ended; in fact, the Confederate battle flag had 13 stars, because they considered Kentucky and Missouri to be "with them," even though those States never seceded. Count also teams from Washington, D.C., as the District of Columbia remained in the Union.

The South is the States that seceded into the Confederacy: Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Texas.

Granted, few of these States have older teams. Of the current major league teams in these States, only the Houston Astros and Rockets, Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, Falcons and Hawks, New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers predate 1980. Note also that Dixie vs. Canada Finals (such as the 1992 World Series and the 2004 and '06 Stanley Cup Finals) do not count. Nor do matchups between teams from Confederate States and those from teams whose States entered the Union after the Civil War (such as the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals).

So...

1970-71 Super Bowl: Baltimore Colts over Dallas Cowboys.
1972-73 Super Bowl: Miami Dolphins over Washington Redskins.
1973-74 Super Bowl: Miami Dolphins over Minnesota Vikings.
1975-76 Super Bowl: Pittsburgh Steelers over Dallas Cowboys.
1978-79 Super Bowl: Pittsburgh Steelers over Dallas Cowboys.
1981 NBA Finals: Boston Celtics over Houston Rockets.
1982-83 Super Bowl: Washington Redskins over Miami Dolphins.
1984-85 Super Bowl: San Francisco 49ers over Miami Dolphins.
1986 NBA Finals: Boston Celtics over Houston Rockets.
1991 World Series: Minnesota Twins over Atlanta Braves.
1992-93 Super Bowl: Dallas Cowboys over Buffalo Bills.
1993-94 Super Bowl: Dallas Cowboys over Buffalo Bills.
1994 NBA Finals: Houston Rockets over New York Knicks.
1995 World Series: Atlanta Braves over Cleveland Indians.
1995-96 Super Bowl: Dallas Cowboys over Pittsburgh Steelers.
1996 World Series: New York Yankees over Atlanta Braves.
1997 World Series: Florida Marlins over Cleveland Indians.
1999 Stanley Cup Finals: Dallas Stars over Buffalo Sabres.
1999 NBA Finals: San Antonio Spurs over New York Knicks.
1999 World Series: New York Yankees over Atlanta Braves.
1999-2000 Super Bowl: St. Louis Rams over Tennessee Titans.
2000 Stanley Cup Finals: New Jersey Devils over Dallas Stars.
2002 Stanley Cup Finals: Detroit Red Wings over Carolina Hurricanes.
2002-03 Super Bowl: Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Oakland Raiders.
2003 NBA Finals: San Antonio Spurs over New Jersey Nets.
2003 World Series: Florida Marlins over New York Yankees.
2003-04 Super Bowl: New England Patriots over Carolina Panthers.
2005 NBA Finals: San Antonio Spurs over Detroit Pistons.
2005 World Series: Chicago White Sox over Houston Astros.
2007 NBA Finals: San Antonio Spurs over Cleveland Cavaliers.
2008 World Series: Philadelphia Phillies over Tampa Bay Rays.
2009 NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers over Orlando Magic.
2009-10 Super Bowl: New Orleans Saints over Indianapolis Colts.
2010 World Series: San Francisco Giants over Texas Rangers.

MLB: North leads, 6-3, 6-1 if you don't count the Indians.
NHL: North leads, 2-1.
NFL: Tied, 7-7.
NBA: South leads, 5-3, although 4-0 of that is the Spurs.

Overall: North leads, 18-16. Pretty close, but the North wins again.

Now, this doesn't mean that a team from a Confederate State will ALWAYS deserve to lose to a team from a Free State. After all, you'd have had to be a pretty hardcore Colts fan to say the Saints didn't deserve it last season. And as long as the Lakers have Kobe Bryant, they will deserve to lose.

There have been 3 All-Dixie championships:

1971-72 Super Bowl: Dallas Cowboys over Miami Dolphins.
1995 NBA Finals: Houston Rockets over Orlando Magic.
2006 NBA Finals: Miami Heat over Dallas Mavericks.

If the current NFL standings -- bolstered by the Jets actually beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and the Giants' shocking choke to the Eagles at the New Meadowlands Stadium -- hold, there will be 10 Union teams qualifying for the Playoffs, and 2 Confederate teams, the defending champion Saints winning the NFC South and the Falcons as a Wild Card. (Despite the Division's name, and the formerly large presence the Ku Klux Klan had in Southern Indiana, the AFC South, as usual, is likely to be won by the Indianapolis Colts.) If the current top seeds go all the way to the Super Bowl, it will be the Falcons and the New England Patriots.

In such a situation, Atlanta vs. Boston, the Confederacy vs. New England, the Civil War must step aside, and my Yankee-tinged fandom takes over: The cheaters from New England must lose, and the South will rise -- though that would be the Falcons' first Super Bowl win, after losing 1 and hosting 3 others, so they would not be "rising again."

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