In professional sports, a "Gentleman's Sweep" is a playoff series that is won with the losing team winning a single game. A sweep is a playoff series where the winning team wins all the games, so the idea of a "Gentleman's Sweep" is that the victorious team concedes a single game to avoid humiliating the other team.
The term is usually used in a humorous manner, to refer to the frequent appearance of 4-1 series, and most people don't believe that teams would purposely lose a game in the playoffs. However, there are several reasons why teams might, in effect, "concede" a game.
- In the National Basketball Association, games are played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format, with the favored team playing the first two games on its home court, before the series switches to the less-favored teams venue for the next two days, and with the fifth game return to home court advantage. Winning a series on the fifth game means it will win, and celebrate, on its home court.
- For the dominant team, that additional game on its home court means one night's more worth of ticket sales, which for a playoff game, can be quite lucrative. And of course, an additional televised game means more revenue for both teams, and the league.
- In the stressful and sometimes dangerous world of the playoffs, exposing players to less stress and chance of injuries is a good way to keep them healthy. Having already won three games, a coach might elect to play less strenuously, even if it means the other team can win.
That being said, most teams are interested in winning, and the appearance of "gentleman's sweeps" probably is more the result of chance than of some complicated strategy to concede games.