Monday, November 23, 2009

On College Football and the Bottom Line

At the risk of contradicting myself, allow me to state a simple truth: Everyone with a semblance of a cerebral cortex knows that the college football bowl system is an inept and inadequate example of American capitalism at work. Recently, some well-meaning and obviously delusional fellow from the BCS started a Twitter feed, and said feed was promptly bombarded with bon mots and screeds (well, as much as one can screed in 140 characters) about the very idiocy of the BCS system the Twitter feed had been created to defend--and this is Twitter, where idiocy is often a default position. Nobody who considers themself an actual "fan" of college football would somehow feel the game had been cheapened by the introduction of a four-team playoff, or a plus-one game at the end of the season. Nobody. The bowl system is a business, and this is the only argument in its defense, and I don't think that point has ever been made clearer to me than right now.

Here's the situation: My alma mater, Penn State, has completed an utterly lackluster and strangely hollow season with 10 wins and two losses. Said losses were to Ohio State and Iowa, both at home. Neither game was particularly close. Now, Ohio State has locked up a Rose Bowl bid, and now there seems to be a legitimate question as to whether Penn State or Iowa deserves what might be the final BCS bowl slot. That is, Penn State--which lost to Iowa, 21-10, at home--may be chosen over Iowa, for reasons that relate entirely to commerce. Now, at some level, I understand this--it's a tough time in America, even for overpaid bowl executives in garish sportjackets, and since it is their game, they have some right to consider the bottom line. But as much as that may be true, this allegiance to economics over fairness is the prototypical example of why the bowl system, no matter how we contort it or rearrange it, sans playoff, will never be able to rightfully determine a national champion. I mean, this is utterly obvious, even to a Penn State sympathizer like me: There is no possible way Penn State could make the case that it deserves to be chosen for the Orange Bowl over Iowa. But this is college football, and deserve has nothing to do with it.

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