(Photo: Getty Images)
Sameness is the rule in sports.
Look at the NFL. 32 teams. Roughly 20 of them are nearly indistinguishable from each other. It's a league with like 15 quarterbacks who are essentially the same guy, each being coached by men who are running the same offenses, printing the same boring training t-shirts, and three days a week, holding the same cliched-filled press conference.
As big a college football fans as I am, I've yet to recite this year's preseason polls, but let me guess. The top ten looks pretty familiar, right? Alabama? Florida State? Ohio State? Clemson. They're all in it, right? Is there any team that's really, you know, different ranked near the top?
The NBA is a chaos-filled league right now, and chaos is remarkably fun. In fact, I believe there's no more fun league to follow on a daily basis than the National Basketball Association. But for all of the player movement, new storylines, and offseason intrigue, we're probably gonna get the same NBA Finals participants we've gotten the past three years, aren't we?
College basketball. More sameness. Park yourself on the couch one night this winter and watch three or four games. You'll see six or eight teams running the exact same stuff.
A lot of this is by design, some of it is almost unavoidable, and much of it is a byproduct of teams, organizations, and coaches copying successful formulas and tactics, but perhaps more so than ever, sports is filled with homogeneity.
Which is why I'm all-in on Mayweather/McGregor.
This fight, for however you feel about the men fighting and what kind of fight they'll engage in, is a different kind of event. It has a different kind of feel. It will be a different type of boxing match. It's very much a different kind of sporting event.
We're getting tonight what we don't get in the other sports, which is an answer to a pretty long-standing "what would happen if..."
What would happen if the '96 Bulls played last season's Warriors? What would the result be if Joey Votto stood in against Bob Gibson? What if the 2015 UK Wildcats played that year's 76ers? What would happen if one of the most famous, accomplished MMA fighters ever stepped into a ring with one boxing's all-time greats?
We'll get an answer to that question tonight.
There's a million ways to look at this fight, from how the actual fight will transpire, to the technical aspects that will shape the match, to what will happen to both men and their place in their respective sports depending on the outcome, to whether a rematch will occur, to whether either of these guys is actually worth rooting for. A lot of people have gone out of their way at times to look down their noses at this fight because of the rhetoric surrounding it (including me) and there are no shortage of boxing purists who will insist that this particular match is a direct slap in the face to their sport, and not worth the purchase price.
But all will agree that this is different.
The event itself has a part-Super Bowl/part-Grammy/part-Election Night feel to it. There's a communal aspect to it. You want to either watch it with friends or Tweet about it with strangers. The myriad types of betting opportunities give it a Kentucky Derby vibe. And being an event that nearly everyone is interested enough in the outcome to be able to talk about it on Sunday and Monday, there's almost a sense of having to at least follow it.
But mainly, what's attractive about this tonight is that it's the antithesis of so much of what sports is now. Yes, it has been overhyped and sure, the fighters' enmity for each other is probably being embellished, but Mayweather and McGregor have come across as raw and unfiltered, and as much as the fight's outcome seems reasonably easy to guess, no one seems to know for sure what kind of script the night will follow.
It will look, feel, and sound unlike than what we see, touch, and hear. It might not be good. It might be memorable more for what happens outside the ring that in, or more the fighters' verbal jabs than their physical ones. It might yield a result that's either predictable, undesirable, or both.
But it will be different. And that will be refreshing.