Walking the tank

The 2008 Detroit Lions, the 2012 Charlotte Bobcats, the 2003 Detroit Tigers and the 2016 Philadelphia 76ers were some of the worst teams in professional sports history. (0-16, 7-59, 43-119, and 10-72 records respectively)

What did all four of these teams have in common? They all tanked!

Tanking is an interesting strategy in modern day sports, due to the fact that teams are losing on purpose to boost or improve their draft pick. 

Using this tactic, the Houston Astros went from losing 324 total games in three years, to winning the World Series in 2017. Now they’re on the verge of winning a second championship in three years. 

Tanking pays off most of the time, but one obstacle that vears teams away from tanking is the draft lottery. In the NHL and NBA, the first pick doesn’t necessarily go to the team with the worst record.

Look at last year’s New York Knicks. They tanked so hard, it got to a point where Knicks fans didn’t care about the season and created their 2019 moto “Tank for Zion.” Obviously, it didn’t work out because the Knicks got embarrassingly unlucky, and the New Orleans Pelicans drafted Zion Williamson with the first pick.

Don’t worry Knicks fans you had a great draft and signed multiple outstanding bench players in the off-season instead of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but there’s always next year right?

Another interesting dispute is, what should the mediocre teams do? Should they tank or push for a playoff bid? While there is no correct way to go, the most logical route down this psychological warfare in modern sports, is tanking. 

For instance the Detroit Tigers started off their 2019 season strong with a 7-3 record and potential to shock the world and make the playoffs. Unfortunately, the world was not shocked because the Tigers finished the season with the worst record in the MLB at 47-114.

On the other hand, the New York Mets were basically dead in the water before the trade deadline with a 37-46 record and 12 games back in the wildcard, but instead of simply tanking, they made a playoff push and finished the season with a 86-76 record, just falling short of the playoffs by 3 games.

The term “tanking” proves how much the mindset of success throughout a season has changed. Most older traditional sports fans are used to their team competing and trying to win until the last game of the season. Now modern day fans root for their team to lose as much as they possibly can.