- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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I know you've been waiting for this.
If it's Super Bowl week, it must be time for that annual thing I do, which you all love so much.
And you know what thing I'm talking about: The blog where I just happen to subtly mention that maybe the NFL isn't quite the competitive-balance champion of the universe that it purports to be -- not if you compare it to other sports. ...
Like, oh, baseball, for instance.
So let's do that, OK? It's always fun. Especially for all of you who have been brainwashed by the NFL propaganda machine. And you know who you are!
• First off, I'm not going to pretend that baseball is coming off a World Series featuring a shocking, unforeseen matchup of underdogs. It was Cardinals-Red Sox, of course. A duel of two teams that have made a combined seven World Series appearances in the past 10 years -- including two against each other (2004 and 2013). But ...
• That World Series came at the end of a postseason in which five of the 10 playoff teams were teams that hadn't made the postseason the year before. That would be 50 percent of them, if you're calculating along at home.
And what do you know -- that was still a better percentage of new teams than the NFL playoffs, in which only 41 percent (5 of 12) of this year's playoff teams were new. How 'bout that.
• So that's the exception, you say? The Same Teams Win Every Year in baseball, you say? Really? Actually, baseball hasn't had a season in which more than half of its playoff teams repeated since 2005. The NFL is working on a streak of five straight seasons in which at least half of its playoff teams were repeaters. Who knew!
• And now that we're on this topic, let's take a look at that ever-popular line of thought that in baseball, The Same Teams Win Every Year, while in football, Anything Can Happen. Really? Sure about that?
Well, it's a good thing that The Same Teams Don't Win Every Year in football. That would be awful. Oh, wait. Just noticed something:
The Broncos are in the Super Bowl.
Right. Of course, they are -- because the Broncos, Ravens, Patriots, Steelers or Colts are always in the Super Bowl. Always.
Those five teams have now represented the AFC in the Super Bowl in 16 of the past 18 years -- and 11 in a row! But in a league with as much parity as the NFL, I'm sure the Browns will be charging into the Super Bowl any century now.
• Yessir, it sure is lucky for humanity that The Same Teams Don't Win Every Year in football. Oh, wait. Just took a look at the four teams that played in the conference championship games. They seemed kind of familiar. Here's why:
Patriots -- who have made the playoffs in 10 of the past 11 years and played in the conference finals three straight years.
49ers -- who have also played in the conference finals three straight years.
Seahawks -- who have made the playoffs in eight of the past 11 years.
Broncos -- who have made the playoffs three straight years, six of the past 11, and 10 of the past 18.
• Yeah, well stuff happens every once in a while, you say. Sure it does. Just a fluke, obviously. Thank heaven The Same Teams Don't Win Every Year in football. Thank heaven Anything Can Happen in the NFL. Except that … uh-oh, just noticed something else. Here are four more teams that also made an appearance in the NFL postseason this year:
Packers -- who have made the playoffs in five straight years, six of the past seven, 10 of the past 13 and 16 of the past 21.
Colts -- who have made the playoffs in 11 of the past 12 years.
Saints -- who have made the playoffs in four of the past five years.
Bengals -- who have made the playoffs three years in a row and four of the Past five.
• Meanwhile, my buddy Dave Schoenfield had a fun little tidbit along these lines himself the other day.
The NFL playoffs, over the past five seasons, have gone their merry way without eight teams -- six of which have never even had a winning record in any of those five years. That would be the Browns, Bills, Jaguars, Raiders and Rams.
Over in baseball, on the other hand, 28 of the 30 teams have had a winning season at least once in the past five years. The only exceptions? The Mets and Astros.
• Hey, guess what? The team that won the World Series -- the Red Sox -- finished in last place the year before it won. In the NFL, on the other hand, they haven't seen a worst-to-first season by any Super Bowl champ since 2000-01, when the Patriots did it.
• But if the Red Sox won the World Series, it's more proof that in baseball it's all about the money, right? Sure. Obviously. Other than the fact that the Yankees, with their $220 million baseball team, missed the playoffs.
And so did the Phillies, Giants, Angels, White Sox and Blue Jays, who all ranked in the top nine in payroll and started the season with payrolls between $117 million and $165 million.
Meanwhile, three of the five teams with the LOWEST payrolls in baseball did make the postseason.
And the two that didn't (Astros and Marlins) were in no-bones-about-it, full-disclosure rebuilding mode.
Oh, and one more thing: More clubs from the bottom 10 in payroll (four) made the playoffs than teams from the top 10 (three).
But other than that, you're absolutely right. It was all about the money. Totally.
• Hey, did I just mention the Yankees? Is there an NFL apologist on earth who hasn't tried to remind us that the Yankees are the symbol of everything that's wrong with baseball? Well, you sure couldn't tell from October, where the Yankees' presence wasn't required.
In fact, the Yankees now have played in only one of the past 10 World Series. Right. We said one.
Back in the NFL, on the other hand, the Steelers (three), Patriots (three), Seahawks (two) and Giants (two) have combined for 10 Super Bowl appearances over the past 10 Super Sundays. Just thought I'd mention it.
• And, lastly ... once this Super Bowl is over, we can congratulate the NFL for finally catching up with baseball, by having had nine different teams win a championship since 2001. Woo-hoo.
But wait a minute. That won't change the fact that, after this game, either 19 (if Seattle wins) or 20 (if Denver wins) of the 32 NFL franchises (that's 59.4 percent) have won NONE of the past 25 Super Bowls.
But over in baseball, where The Same Teams Win Every Year, more than half the franchises in the sport (16 of 30) have won at least one World Series in the past 25 years. Imagine that.
And 24 of the 30 teams have played in one of those World Series. Imagine that.
And 28 of the 30 teams have made the postseason just since 2001. Imagine that.
But don't let that dissuade you. It's the NFL that has cornered the market on parity, while in baseball The Same Teams Win Every Year.
Except for the fact that they don't.
Don't let the facts get in the way, brainwashed football fans. When it comes to parity, MLB beats the NFL.