Alabama, Boise State, and the Arrogance of the BCS: Are We Angry Yet?

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Alabama, Boise State, and the Arrogance of the BCS: Are We Angry Yet?

Do you realize just how stupid corporate America thinks the rest of the country is?

I mean, do you really appreciate it?

Look at this story about how Wall Street is preparing to hand out six-, seven-, and even EIGHT-FIGURE bonuses on the heels of one of its most profitable years in history. If that sentence reads like a black-and-white bad acid trip, it should.

The industry that dropped the United States of America (and large swatches of the globe) into the deepest financial abyss since the Great Depression is preparing to enter one of its most lucrative bonus seasons in recorded history.

The justification, as always, will be incentivizing elite talent. Seven figures, financial abyss, incentivizing, elite talent—there's simply too much to attack there, let's move on.

To a far more trivial, but only slightly less infuriating manifestation of corporate contempt—commercials.

Pick one, any one—95 percent represent unsubtle slaps at the audience's intelligence. The current focus of my scorn is Microsoft's ad pushing its Bing search engine. It's got a dude with a foreign accent pulling shades as he hassles his presumably girlfriend to find a place to eat with dim lighting. She finally finds one (using Bing) as he pulls the last shade closed and reveals he's no longer in a hurry because...he's a vampire and she is dinner.

Got it.

Microsoft slammed its latest product into the hottest cultural phenomenon and vomited it onto the screen. They don't even make the slightest attempt to connect the pair—two attractive people, its product, a vampire, and voila!

These happenings are only possible if somewhere, someone with control believes the ears and eyeballs receiving the information aren't connected to functioning brains. Period.

Which brings me to the Bowl Championship Series. It's yet another middle-finger directed at the paying masses.

Anyone who believes the BCS serves the best interest of college football either has a financial stake in the lucrative business or roots for one of the Big Three conferences (SEC, Big XII, or Big Ten). I say that because the BCS serves college football in exactly one way—it is, without question, the best way to generate the most money.

From a sport that is supposed to be the last bastion of amateur athletics, pure competition, and "for the love of the game."

For the vast majority of the kids on the field, it is still very much about all three of those hallowed concepts. Maybe even for a lot of the coaches (although here I am more skeptical), but that's probably where the list stops.

It certainly doesn't include the BCS.

As far as a tribute to the tenets of fair competition, the BCS is an astonishingly brazen failure of such epic proportions that it must be intentional. I guess anything is possible, but it's either moronity or greed, take your pick.

If there is any sport that calls for a playoff more than college football, I haven't seen one. It's got far too many teams and far too few games for the matter to be appropriately threshed out via the tremendously flawed transitivity of sports.

Forget the normal problems with arguing that Team A is better than Team C because A beat Team B, who beat C. The CFB season is particularly awful territory for the principle considering these are kids, not grown men paid for the pleasure, and therefore the product can be drastically different from week to week.

Not to mention month to month—I'm a Stanford Cardinal alumnus and anyone who saw our boys mature this season knows exactly the gospel I type.

Given the impossibility of having all the relevant teams play each other or even play enough common opponents to get an adequate idea of relative strength, there are only two possible avenues to crowning a champion.

Neither is perfect, but compare the imperfection of the football playoff system with that of BCS-style transitivity.

In the National Football League, which faces similar problems of too many teams/too few games/inconsistency for reasonable application of transitivity, the 2007-08 New England Patriots were the best team. There's little-to-no question about this.

Nevertheless, the New York Giants were the rightful champions because they played that shade better in Super Bowl XLII.

Complaints from the room? Anyone feel dissatisfied with the result, feel gypped by the system?

The G-Men's cataclysmic upset was, technically, an imperfect finish since it kept the best team all year from the hardware (and the undefeated campaign). However, the playoff format turned it into a mythical moment, encapsulating the uniqueness of sports, because it was authored ON THE FIELD.

Compare it to this year's college football season.

The Alabama Crimson Tide was the best team in the country; there's almost no room for doubt. Yet like many interested observers, that National Championship game left a terrible taste in my mouth despite the technically sound outcome.

It's not necessarily that the Texas Longhorns played without quarterback Colt McCoy, a substantial weapon.

The loss of one of the game's key pieces is part of it. But it's also that freshman QB Garrett Gilbert (taking his first meaningful college snaps) eventually torched the Tide's much-ballyhooed defense. It's also that the genius coach Nick Saban opened the contest with the arrogance of an NFL squad facing a high school side and promptly got it shoved down his gullet.

More importantly, it's that neither side looked all that impressive.

Perhaps most importantly, it's the Boise State Broncos and the reception they're getting that's got me spitting at the BCS again—both to get the taste of its "championship" out of my mouth and as an accurate representation of my respect for the institution.

See, the Broncs played an equally ugly, lackluster game—though in a different, defensively stifling way—against another unbeaten team (TCU Horned Frogs) and escaped with the "W."

Very much like 'Bama.

Unlike Alabama, from a deep-pocketed BCS-darling, Boise State is getting dumped on by the BCS enablers like ESPN . OK, to be fair, ESPN's Pat Forde is doing his part to get the 2010 Bronco Bandwagon rolling early.

Still, it's the former sentiment that prevails because it is the most commonly trumpeted. Conventional "wisdom" holds that the smaller, non-power schools must be perfect whenever they get a chance at the brass ring or else regress. In the face of a system stacked against it, the underdogs can't simply beat everyone on their slate—they've got to do it convincingly to be taken seriously.

Meanwhile, the Tide's underwhelming victory under favorable circumstances is "no reflection on Nick Saban or his team ." Why?

Because it is from the SEC and the BCS tells us that teams from the SEC—like those from the Big XII and Big Ten—are inherently better than anyone else. Consequently, their ugly wins are to be commended as further proof of excellence (i.e. winning when not clicking on all cylinders).

And that's cool except what proof do we really have? Other than these teams traveling like crazy and boasting huge television audiences? Here's a hint: none.

The matter isn't settled on the field because cupcakes are the order of the non-conference schedule and there is no playoff. Instead, we get treated to heavy helpings of "this team beat that team" and records in bowl games.

Worse, we get it through a filter biased toward (if not downright beholden to) the BCS.

According to FOX Sports, the Pac-10 was bad this year because it went 2-5 in its bowl games and suffered two particularly "bad" losses. The pair were "bad" because they came to non-BCS schools—the BYU Cougars and Utah Utes.

Let's be clear about this.

The No. 18 Oregon State Beavers got trashed by No. 14 BYU—a team that went 11-2, beat the Oklahoma Sooners on the road (the one game that saw a healthy Sam Bradford for any series) while only losing to Florida State and TCU. The unranked Cal Bears got blasted by No. 23 Utah—a team that went 10-3 and lost to only the Pac-10 Champion Oregon Ducks (on the road), BYU (in overtime on the road), and TCU (on the road).

These are "bad" losses in the BCS World because BYU and Utah are not part of it. Other than that, they look totally understandable—an inferior team gets blown out by a better one from time to time, it happens.

Meanwhile, these same culprits point to the SEC's record in BCS games as proof of its superiority.

Surprisingly, you'll hear no mention of the Florida Gators trouncing a team that had been abandoned by its coach weeks before its biggest test of the year (a team that reportedly drew much of its persona from said coach) or 'Bama rolling over a true freshman taking the reins for the first time.

Nope, you'll just hear lip-service about how the BCS is great for college football.

You'll hear how a system that's NEVER given a non-BCS school even one chance to play for college football's most enduring glory in its 12-year history truly embodies the spirit of competition.

Fair competition—like the kind that's handed 13 spots in the National Championship game to representatives from two conferences (SEC and Big XII). Out of 24.

You'll hear the BCS lining up next to Wall Street, Microsoft, and the rest of corporate America.


**www.pva.org**

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