Saturday, December 26, 2009

Weekend Sports Edition: Bowl Me Over

It is that time of year. Somewhere in the last 15 years, January 1st morphed into January 7th. I refer of course to the BCS Championship game, college football's equivalent of the Super Bowl, or at least an attempt to emulate it. The BCS game is a fraud. It is nothing more than a half hearted attempt to achieve the unattainable: a determination of the best team in college football through a combination of performance and computer precision. Writers, fans, and now politicians clamor for a so called playoff system that will leave no doubt about the ultimate winner's right to claim the title of best college football team of the season. To this perennial dream, I say PHOOEY! Devising a sure fire way to bring mathematical certitude to the collegiate gridiron is a chimera, a false dream brought about by the hallucinations of fans and writers who do not appreciate the beast they are trying to tame. The beauty of college football is that its traditions and structure are not suited to an elimination tournament. To do it properly would require a playoff system that started in early November and ended in January. Regional rivalries would be diluted. Conference championships would become meaningless. The debate about the best team would become even more raucous than it is now. I can hear it now. "Why should 10-1 Florida be dissed in place of 12-0 Boise State;" and vice versa. Great teams who have a very real chance of winning it all would never get a chance to compete in the playoff system.
Instead of moving forward, I think college football should take a look in the rear view mirror. There was something glorious about waking up on New Year's Day as a kid. First there was no school, which I hated anyway. Second, my parents would not wake up until 11. At 1, I watched the Cotton Bowl. It was always Texas against someone. I remember Notre Dame playing in that game many times. Rooting for ND was mandatory for me. Not doing so was to face eternal damnation or at least it seemed that way. At 2, it was the Sugar Bowl. Always a team from the South. If the Cotton Bowl was not interesting, I would get off the floor, and manually turn the channel from 10(CBS) to 7(ABC). New Year's dinner was served around 3:30. Around 4, I would turn on the Rose Bowl. I could never understand the pageantry until about 10 years later when we bought a color TV. The Rose Bowl seemed to always feature Ohio State against USC or Stanford. I remember OJ Simpson, Woody Hayes, Jim Plunkett, and Rex Kern. By 8, it was time for the Orange Bowl. It was always a Big Eight team against Penn State, or at least it seemed that way. What I remember is that each of these games was important. The outcome had some direct or indirect ramification for who could later claim title to a mythical national championship. I also remember a few years when there were two champions: an AP one and UPI one. The uncertainty is was made it all so much fun.
Now instead of one day full of four bowl games, we get New Year's Day full of meaningless games and then the meaningful game one week later. To this pathology of certitude, I offer a dissent and say Here's To Yesterday!

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