There has never been a perfect example of how to put together a postseason in any sport. Everyone has his or her own solution on how to fix it but there will always be people who will find holes in a playoff format.
There were complaints about the Bowl Championship Series in college football and those complaints quickly turned to the College Football Playoff committee. There are plenty of complaints on the overtime rules for the NFL postseason.
In soccer, people love to watch a good penalty shootout but it has never been the best way to decide who is the better team. Some people believe there are too many teams in the NBA and NHL playoffs while some people believe there are not enough in the MLB playoffs.
There will never be a perfect solution to any postseason format but that certainly does not mean a league should settle for something just because it is tradition. And for high school softball in the state of Alabama, that seems to be the case.
Area tournaments have been around for a long time in softball and while it is rare to find an instance when the best two teams do not come out, it does happen. The area tournament has always taken away the importance of the regular season and that should not happen.
If you have an area of four teams, the two games each team plays against each other is a much bigger sample size and should mean more to the postseason than eight hours of softball across two days at the end of April.
I was once told by a softball coach the area tournaments are still intact to promote the game in the small schools and make money for the host teams. However, that coach said those games often result in the host schools losing money because of the cost of putting on the tournament and providing essentials for the teams traveling.
Most area tournaments have one or even two teams that cannot match up with the top teams so the day is filled with mercy-rule wins with no one gaining anything from the experience. So, what can be the possible solution?
The sport adopted the regional tournament format in 2009 and it has certainly been a success. The top 32 teams in each class play across four regionals in a double elimination tournament to find the top eight in each class.
While letting the final 32 teams fight for the top spot has worked, it is getting down to those final 32 that needs some work. And my biggest concern on the issue is making sure the regular season matters.
There is some beauty to knowing a team with a 2-35 record has the same chance of winning a state title as a team with a 44-1 record but the playoffs should be about seeing the best teams play against the best opposition to increase competition.
If every team in the state played each team in its area three times during the regular season, you could easily pull the top two teams from each area and have your final 32 teams for the regional tournaments. And yes, you could run into the same issue of some great teams missing the postseason but it will not happen as often because it would take more than just one bad day or one injury to knock them out.
I believe there is some ground between the old sub-state format and the regional tournaments which could be the solution to it all. With some area realignment, you could send the two seeds on the road to an area champion for the first round and let the winner of a best-of-three series go to regionals.
Just like most people, I have some gripes with many of the postseason formats, especially the ones in high school sports in Alabama. However, until a solution is put forward and adopted, I will agree to say just sit back and enjoy the show.
The area tournaments started this week with the regionals on the horizon and there is plenty of talent on the softball field around the state this year.
Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for The Tribune.