Sunday, January 4, 2009

28 Days Later (Roughly)

So, yes, it has been awhile since I have written anything here. Call it, say, a "Holiday Sabbatical." In truth, the combination of my internship, completing PhD applications, Christmas preparations, and the horridly soul-sucking reality of Chicago winters made my blogging obligations seem just a little low on my list of priorities. But now it's 2009, and, along with a slew of others, blogging at least twice a week is one of my New Year's Resolutions. Even if one of those entries is a "cheater," like simply posting a link to something awesome that will totally make your day better.

But this isn't one of those.

No, instead, this is an entry about College Football. (If you do not care to spend the next 20 minutes of your life reading about College Football, I strongly suggest that you stop reading right now, and go do something more productive with your precious time. Write a novel, maybe.)

I was in Oregon for New Year's this year, and, at my parent's house, we have a long-held New Year's Day tradition of watching football, drinking beer, and painting Warhammer miniatures. This year was no different. And somewhere in between watching USC crush Penn St. and deciding whether my Orc ought to be painted gnarlog or goblin green, I came to several important conclusions:

1) Thank God that the Pac-10 went 5-0. Hating on the Pac-10 has been extremely in vogue this year, especially here in the Midwest. I even started to buy into the anti-hype a bit, after watching Oregon St. get whooped by Penn St. and then Oregon barely beat mediocre Purdue. There was a lot of regional pride on the line this year, and the West Coast came through with flying colors. That, combined with the various struggles of the other major conferences, (Big Ten: 1-5, Big 12: 3-2, with losses for Oklahoma St. and Texas Tech, SEC: 4-1, but that one loss being Alabama) will probably make the voters think twice before keeping a one-loss Pac-10 team out of the Championship game on the grounds of conference weakness.

2) I am still not convinced about the wisdom or the necessity of installing a playoff system for NCAA football. Here's one reason: If the current BCS format were to evolve into a playoff, that would probably mean that there would be six automatic bids - one for each of the major conferences - plus two at-large bids, making a total of eight. And since the MWC currently does not have major conference status, that means that undefeated Utah would have to compete with Texas and Alabama for those last two spots. And, if it is up to the same voters who pick No. 1 and No. 2, there is no way that Utah gets in. Basically, you would still have the problem of voter bias influencing who gets to play for the championship.

3) Here's another reason: In a playoff, every team's season ends in a loss except for one. That's one of my favorite things about the Bowls: They let half of the teams invited to end their season with a win, usually against a worthy opponent who can match up against them well. So maybe Utah doesn't get to play for the #1 spot, but they do get to end their season 13-0, with an exciting victory against a pompous, bloated program from the South. It's like a Disney movie. In a playoff, they couldn't enjoy that victory for long, because they would have to play 'SC or Texas or Florida next week. And then someone else the next. And so on.

Or take Oregon, for example. I know that they weren't good enough for any kind of national playoff this year, but consider this: They had an up and down season. They finished strong, and qualified for a second-tier bowl game against Oklahoma St. Most people thought that the Cowboys were a better team than the Ducks, but Oregon played hard and beat them, ending the season with a big win against a Top 15 team. That's what I like about the Bowls: They can set up competitve, exciting games. And even if your team isn't in the BCS, they can still come a out with a big win, and end the sason on a high note.

4) On TV, I heard a lot of commentators saying that "We" need a playoff system. But who is "We"? The fans? Sure, viewership of the BCS games has dropped recently, but that has been since the inception of the stand-alone Championship Game, which immediately lowered the importance of the other four. And it's not like the networks or the major bowls are strapped for cash - or, at least, not more than anyone else is these days. College football is the second biggest sport in America, behind the NFL, with some programs netting over $40 mil per year (in 2007.) Even if business has dropped recently, it hasn't been enough to scare away the networks: ESPN just paid $500 million for the rights to air the BCS games for four years. That's a 50 percent hike over the last contract - and it was signed in November, in the midst of the economic collapse. Obviously, someone over at ESPN thinks it's a worthwhile investment.

My point is: Even if the fans have been clamoring for a playoff, they haven't wanted it bad enough to turn off the TV. It's hard to complain about the value of a product if you're still willing to pay asking price (and more) for it.

And what about the players? Don't they deserve to have a shot at No. 1? Maybe, but again, a playoff means that seven of the top eight (or 11 of the top 12, or 15 of the top 16) teams in America will end their season with a loss. And these aren't professionals: they're college kids, ninety-nine percent of whom will never play organized football after they graduate. (citation needed) I think it's hard to argue, then, that a Senior year win in the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl is "meaningless" or a "consolation prize" because it's not the Championship Game. Just look at Pat White.

And that's after winning the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

I think a little bit of the glory fades if, after that win, West Virginia (or whoever) lost the next week to Virginia Tech in the Northeast Regional Semifinal Game. Brought to you by Botox Cosmetic Injections, Inc.

5) I don't like either of the teams in the Championship Game. But I think that I'm rooting for Florida. Because of this. And this:

And this.


Jessek said...

In terms of sports at least your not from WA state/ Seattle, we had the worst year in sports maybe ever recorded...lost the sonics, 4-12 seahwaks, 100+loss mariners, 0-12 huskies, jesus christ we're all about to give up out here, i mean it

jimv said...

I have just begun my new novel, The Four Yorkshiremen and the Grid Iron. Next installment in 28 days (roughly).