What’s the Point of Consolation Games?

Third Place

In my on-again, off-again following of the World Cup this year, I’ve been wondering why the tournament has a third place game.

The NFL doesn’t have consolation game. Neither does Major League Baseball. Ditto for the NBA and NHL. The NCAA basketball tournament used to until 1981 when someone wised up and realized that third place games are pointless. I thought it might be a soccer thing but after doing some research I realized that Major League Soccer doesn’t have a third place game either.

From a player’s perspective, I’d think the third place game would be an emotional letdown. You came this close to making it to the biggest game of your life and didn’t do it. Now you have to run around on a field for 90 minutes with a bunch of other people who, like you, also didn’t make it to the big one. What, exactly, are you playing for?

From a fan’s point of view, I’d personally have a hard time rooting for any of my favorite sports teams in a consolation game. You don’t root for your team because you want them to be number three. You want them to be champions so you can beat your chest and brag to everyone about how awesome your team is.

In sports, you’re either a champion or you’re not. It’s that simple.

If anyone can tell me why the World Cup third place game is a big deal (KS, maybe?), let me know. And for those who think the World Cup consolation games serve a purpose, how many of you can tell me who won the third place game in the 1994 World Cup without the help of Google or some other search engine? (As a hint, the winner, loser, and score of that game is probably the only World Cup game I know off the top of my head.)

The Sports Kids Love

I was contemplating taking the kids to another college football game yesterday but a steady snowfall and temperatures in the 20s make me reconsider. Even though I would have loved to watch a game in the driving snow storm, I doubt the kids would have lasted past the first quarter. And since I want them to enjoy going to football games, it’s probably not a good idea to have them associate them with freezing temperatures and snow—at least until they’re old enough to want to do something like that. Instead we stayed home and played copious amounts of Chutes & Ladders, war, rogue chess, and many other card and board games. A good time was had by all.

Last weekend I took them to their first Utah Jazz game. This means in the last year or so they’ve attended a major league baseball game, college football game, and an NBA game. Aside from making them spoiled rotten, it’s been interesting to see how they act at different events and which ones they enjoy the most. For any parents in the crowd, here’s my take on how young kids (say, 6 and under) enjoy different sporting events.

Best: (college) football. There’s enough stoppage between plays that they can stand up and do whatever they want then focus their attention back on the field. And since most plays take up quite a bit of the field, there’s a lot to focus on. By the end of the game the boys understood the basics of the game and could read the scoreboard. (Read about the experience here.) And after watching a game in person, whenever we throw the football around the yard, they now want to play “real” (read: tackle) football. Final Weber State game is next Saturday. If the weather warms up, I’ll consider taking them.

Okay: baseball. The game is slow enough for them to follow the action while still act like kids and find all sorts of ways to entertain themselves during the breaks in the game. The problem is that when the action does occur, 90% of it takes place between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. It was hard for them to pay attention to that small area or watch the ball get thrown back and forth. They enjoyed it more when the bat and ball made contact. Will probably take them to a handful of minor league games next summer and see how they handle it.

Too soon: basketball. Despite row 7 seats, the Jazz game was too fast for them to follow. They got the concept of putting the ball in the hoop but that was about it. Score changed too fast for them to follow. Parts of the game were too loud for them—something they didn’t enjoy. The best part of the game for them was watching the Jazz Bear. Might wait a few years before trying this one again. Might consider some Utah Flash games if the chance arises. Those games aren’t as noisy and they won’t have to watch Carlos Boozer screw things up.