Tanking Probably Won’t Make Your Team Better. Sorry.

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We live in odd athletic times. Losing has never been this fashionable. Look no further than the 2019 Miami Dolphins, who, as the season was about to kick off, traded two starters for a haul of future draft picks. The Dolphins decided, in modern parlance, to “tank,” or sacrifice the present for the potential of a brighter future. The Fins suffered 59-10 and 43-0 shellackings in their first two games. Then they traded another starter.

Tanking is now an acceptable form of sports behavior, creating stark inequality in the standings. For only the second time ever, for example, four baseball teams lost more than 100 games in a single season. Not coincidentally, four teams won 100 games for the first time in history. The Cleveland Browns gutted their roster to finish 1-31 in 2016 and 2017. The Philadelphia 76ers won 19% of their games from the 2014 through 2016 seasons. “Trust the Process!” Sixers fans would chant, with some trademark Broad Street bitterness. Now, hoops pundits wait for the latest NBA bottom-feeders to emerge. Scouts for the dysfunctional New York Knicks and the injury-riddled Golden State Warriors will surely begin to rack up frequent-flier miles, as they scour the country for the top college prospects they’ll likely select in the 2020 draft.

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