Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's Articles Like These...

...that give sports journalism a bad name. Look, Deford is basically an institution and has written a ton of interesting, insightful pieces over his many years. But there's just something about the BCS that turns normally rational, commendable sportswriters into foaming-at-the-mouth zealots. The poster child for this when it comes to the BCS is Dan Wetzel, who writes so prolifically that he's bound to throw out some less than stellar work. But his vendetta against the BCS hinges on hyperbole, leading to extreme pieces that resemble propoganda more than journalism.

We get it - a lot of people don't like the BCS. I'm no fan of the BCS either, but there's so much hatred of the system coming from some corners of the media that I feel compelled to push back toward the center. The BCS is not the devil incarnate. It's not a tragedy, a national embarrassment, or a hostage situation. Partly because it, and the national championship question in general, isn't as important as it's become in the past decade. There are good things about the BCS, and at times it does work, as much as those screaming from the press boxes want you to think that it doesn't. And most of all, the nearly consensus solution, a playoff, would be just as problematic.

So let's look at the Deford piece and break it down.

The Bowl Championship Series climaxes Monday with a game in New Orleans between Louisiana State and Alabama for the national bragging rights to Dixie. As there is a joke about the Holy Roman Empire, that it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire, so can the same be said about the Bowl Championship Series. It's not a bowl. - Sure it is. In the dictionary, 'a football game played after the regular season by teams selected by the sponsors of the game'. Yup - that fits. It's a game played in the Superdome. It's not a championship -- just an exhibition -- because the teams have been appointed to show up without earning the right to challenge for the title. - LSU and Alabama earned the right by finishing 1-2 in the end of the regular season polls. That's how the system works, even if you don't like it. And the winner will be recognized as a champion by the vast majority of the college football world, again even if you don't like it. And it's not a series because no team plays more than once. The 'series' refers to the five BCS bowl games, not a single matchup played multiple times. You're trying to get technical with all these cute definitions, but that can cut both ways. No wonder the BCS is so despised. Yeah, people hate the BCS because it's grammatically incorrect. That's it.

Remember Diogenes -- the guy who browsed around with a lantern looking for just one honest man? Well, I am the Diogenes of the BCS, for armed with a bullhorn and a searchlight, I've traveled this great land of ours, desperately hoping to find just a single fan of the BCS. But, alas, I've found nary a one. Bullshit. Did you talk to any of the bowl CEO's? Or fans in the SEC? How about the players on TCU's team who won the Rose Bowl last year and who otherwise wouldn't have had the chance to even play in Pasadena? You couldn't find a single person? Bullshit hyperbole that basically calls the rest of your piece into question. Still, we Americans continue, lobotomized, to accept the BCS as legitimate, when it's the goofiest competition this side of the Iowa caucuses and the People's Choice Awards. But ... but if we should just think about it for a moment and apply its arranged manipulations to other sports we could realize how unfair and imbecilic the Bowl Championship Series really is. That's the point - you can't compare it to any other sport or situation because it's completely different from anything else in major sports. That one fact basically makes your following hypotheticals completely pointless.

Consider: If the BCS ran the Olympics, the track and field 100-meter final would be held in September, six or seven weeks after the scheduled heats. You see, that is consistent with the cuckoo BCS scheduling. LSU's last game was on December 3rd, Alabama's way back in November, 45 days ago. Nowhere else in sport is there such a pointless, bizarre interval. Okay, 1) that's not a feature of the BCS, it's a feature of the bowl system that's been around for nearly a century. And 2) since you're a fan of getting technical, using your chosen metaphor, the Outdoor Track & Field Championship races to make the U.S. National Team, basically a semi-final for the Olympic final, are held anywhere from 6-10 weeks prior. This year they'll be held in late June, nearly 45 days before the London 2012 Olympics take place. So there's that.

If the BCS ran the NFL there would be no playoffs. Instead, a bunch of mysterious computers and some dubious experts -- many of whom have conflicts of interest -- would just declare which teams qualified for the Super Bowl ... then schedule the matchup forty-five days from now, of course. Again, with the hypotheticals. The reason college football needs rankings and computers is because they play too few games with too many competitors. The NFL has 32 teams, college football 120. The NFL has 16 games, college football 12-13. There's just not enough information to go on using straight W-L formulas like the NFL and other sports do.

If the BCS ran the World Series, tens of millions of dollars would still be made, and the leagues and the owners and the managers and everyone connected with the Series would be paid ... well everyone except for the players. But, you see, this is in keeping with the BCS rationale that players are actually much happier playing when they aren't burdened by making money. Of course, baseball boosters would slip some cash under the table to the major leaguers to make sure that amateurism remains pure. And again, this isn't a BCS issue - it's an NCAA one, and one that most of the representative schools just voted against at that. The conflation of the BCS and the NCAA is another little trick that gets used, but breaks down once readers realize that a change to one wouldn't necessarily result in a change to the other. Sure, go ahead and pay players millions of dollars - what does that have to do with the BCS?

If the BCS ran the World Cup, there would be no World Cup. Instead, there would just be a mind-numbing plethora of meaningless little soccer matches, international bowl games -- Demitasse Games -- you mean like the international "friendlies" they have now? played between disparate countries like Peru vs. Slovenia, scheduled at odd neutral sites like Sri Lanka. Now you're just being ridiculous. Even with all those friendlies, they still play the tournament. And the international rankings play a big part in how teams are selected to participate.

I hope you enjoy watching the arranged marriage that the BCS is putting on Tuesday. Is he being serious here? Sure people are going to tune in and enjoy the game - probably about 20 million people, including yourself I'm sure. And that's the whole point - it's going to be a fantastic matchup between two stellar teams, and even though they've played once already this year, leaving the whole championship question aside, why wouldn't people want to see them play again? Why do those who hate the BCS feel the need to drag the whole sport down when they could just as easily ignore the championship ramifications and focus on the more enjoyable aspects of the contest? I've said it a bunch before, but there's much more to college football than just the BCS.

1 comment:

Jams said...

I read that column and wanted to pull my hair out. Actually, I wanted to pull Deford's fingernails out, because that's the kind of torture it was for me to read his drivel.

I get so angry when national sports journalists who haven't followed college football all season pump out one of these loads of crap come bowl season. It's sad that the rest of the sports commentariat and casual viewership has such a skewed view of the BCS.

I'm with you: I don't like the BCS much either, but I constantly find myself fighting against the extremists to bring things back to the middle.

Thank you, Ed, for addressing all the fallacies that I, too, noticed. You always do a great job on this blog. I haven't commented in a while, but I've been reading for a few years now and I always enjoy your writing.