Friday, October 15, 2010

On Insightful Critiques of Terrible Ideas

I've already expressed my regard for Dan Wetzel's ability as a columnist on this forum, and I had a chance to read an advance copy of his new book, written with two talented Yahoo colleagues: Josh Peter, who wrote a book about professional bull riding that I've been meaning to read for years, and Jeff Passan, who regularly manages to craft the kind of baseball stories that someone like me, who's fallen out of love with baseball, still finds fascinating. And then Dan and I spoke about the book and GQ's Devin Gordon transcribed the whole thing. It doesn't really matter if you agree with these guys or not; if you care at all about college football, this is a book you really should read. Because I guarantee there are at least two or three completely insane facts about the BCS in here that you have absolutely no idea about.

Anyway, here's Devin's intro, and the first question. Follow the link for the rest, and then buy the book:

Like all great works of investigative reporting, this one began with a question: everyone knows that college football's Bowl Championship Series—a.k.a. the BCS—is the stupidest thing in sports, so why can't we get rid of it? The answer, like in all great works of investigative reporting, is complicated. Fortunately Dan Wetzel, an ace writer for Yahoo! Sports, and his co-authors Josh Peter and Jeff Passan, took the time and did the leg work to unravel it. Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series, Michael Weinreb, whose new book, Bigger Than the Game: Bo, Boz, The Punky QB and How the '80s Created the Modern Athlete, is the fall's other must-read sports book. delivers exactly what the title promises, bolstered by exhaustive reporting. It is a must-read for passionate fans of college football; just be prepared to be infuriated once you're done. The upshot? Yes, the BCS is as craven and foolish as you think. No, it isn't going anywhere, not for a while. To explain why, Wetzel got on the phone with another ace sportswriter who is similarly addicted to college football and despondent over the BCS:

After the jump, Wetzel and Weinreb pick apart the system and explain why the myths about its worthiness persist, how we can possibly get rid of it, and exactly how much bandleaders get paid for bowl appearances by their schools. (Yes, even they get paid.)

Weinreb: Your book is a great read, and there was a ton of stuff in there about how the BCS works that I didn't know about at all. And I think that's true for most fans of college football. None of us know this stuff.

Wetzel: We didn't either. The book started a few years ago when we decided to figure out why we really don't have a playoff system in college football. The excuses that they pop out—"We don't wanna inconvenience the cheerleaders"—is clearly not a reason. We've heard the propaganda for 14 years. And nobody believes it. So what's the real reason? Well, this is America, so you follow the money. We literally went through thousands of pages of tax documents, university contracts, talked to accountants, everybody. And at various times the light bulb would go on and we'd be like, "Wow, I hadn't thought of this." So where we ended up with the book was not where we started.

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