Bread and Circuses

J. B. KraftContributor IMarch 26, 2009

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Wide receiver Brandon LaFell #1 of the LSU Tigers leads the offense onto the field while taking on the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 20, 2008 in Auburn, Alabama. LSU defeated Auburn 26-21.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

The ancient Romans liked free bread and public games, and their political leaders used this mechanism to distract the populace and maintain their power. While it entertained the public and freed them from niggling worries such as wars, plagues, famines and taxes, it is generally conceded it produced undesirable consequences in governance.

I'm not so different from those Romans. I love college football in the best of times and think about it all year, and I obsess about it in the worst of times (like now from an economic standpoint).

One reason is that I know enough about it to understand it, and I can predict with a reasonable certainty 10 teams who will be in the top 20 at the end of the forthcoming season. A second reason is that there is still an iota of—of amateurism left in the game, and at its best I see in it a reflection of the American Spirit.

On the other hand, those fifteen hours of economics in college 30+ years ago are woefully inadequate to understand what is happening in our economy—much less to have a clue as to how we find our way out of this mess, or what I as a citizen should do to help. Distractions are good right now.

So this morning, having vowed not to look at my stocks or 401K and focus on Spring Practice, I innocently open my college's hometown paper and see that Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah) in an apparent fit of pique that his constituent university was unfairly deprived of playing in the BCS Championship game, has decided to investigate the NCAA's Bowl Championship Series.

I further note that the Honorable, if clueless, Joe Barton (R-TX) has taken it upon himself to introduce a bill prohibiting the NCAA from labeling any event a "championship" if it is not settled by a playoff.

I am humbled that the lofty wisdom of our Solons has decreed that these problems must be solved now, rather than demurring in the face of skyrocketing unemployment and deficits, malfeasance and non-feasance of the financial institutions, energy and health issues, and the threat of the imminent demise of the social contract that binds all Americans, except possibly those who are fans of Boise State who plays football on a BLUE field.

A BLUE field is certainly worthy of a Congressional investigation at any time in my opinion, since solid blue uniforms that match the field create a camouflage effect confusing the poor opponents.

While I'll grant that the NCAA is certainly a monopoly, and at some point should have its dictatorial powers, authority, and wealth scrutinized, is that time NOW? I feel somewhat like a passenger on the Titanic might have felt after the shuddering thud and scrape and watching the crew smartly re-arranging the deck chairs.