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A Modest Proposal, Part III: What I Want

It came to C&F, as A Modest Proposal was being hailed by people he usually disagrees with and dissected by people he usually agrees with on the matter of a playoff that perhaps his intent had escaped.

I never intended to give a blank-check endorsement to a playoff. Any notion that I did was probably my fault for not more clearly stressing caveats.

As far as I can see, the current system is flawed and hopelessly imperfect. But any system for choosing a champion is flawed and hopelessly imperfect. The Mayor obviously has some unresolved anger issues with the 1997 Florida Marlins, but I think anyone who wins a division series, championship series and World Series has proven themselves worthy of being called the game's best.

On the other hand, I find it hard to completely disagree with Kyle's basic sentiment: The 1997 Marlins did not play the best overall season that year, and it takes something away from that season to have Florida dubbed champions.

But I also disagree with the assertion that the BCS produces a defensible (if not perfect) champion while a playoff system might not. Again, set aside for a moment what you know now about January's bowl results. Which of these teams would not be a worthy (if perhaps imperfect) champion for the 2007 college football season: Ohio State (again, set aside bowl results), LSU, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma (again, set aside bowl results), Georgia and Missouri.

I would contend that Ohio State, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech most likely would have lost along the way, nullifying the 20-20 hindsight argument anyway. But that's beside the point. Any of these teams, based on what we knew the last week of the season, wouldn't cause me any major heartburn.

Skeptic sez: West Virginia lost to Pitt. Answer to skeptic: LSU lost to Kentucky.

Alas, though, that answer brings us to another pro-playoff argument that is slightly flawed: That LSU winning it all last year contradicts the notion that you can't lose too many games and remain a contender under the BCS system.

Like, how many games? Like two games? Like National Champion™ LSU? ... Every single year of the BCS' existence has produced between 10 and 16 BCS conference teams with two or fewer losses, excluding Tulanes, Utahs, Boise States and Hawaiis. So, bearing in mind the record of the most recent BCS champion, how many regular season losses is too many?

Except LSU was not a typical two-loss team. It lost those two games by the most slender of margins, in overtime games and, in the case of Arkansas, against a team that had a man-beast on its side. One could also point out that LSU's schedule was pretty strong, but then we get into the conference wars, so I'll just note that briefly instead of making it a major point of argument.

Calling LSU a two-loss team is like calling Al Gore the loser of the 2000 election: Technically true, but a disservice to honest argument.

No, Al, you can't sit behind the desk.

But enough of this "on the one hand, on the other hand."

A Modest Proposal was an attempt to carve a third way between those who want a 16-team, weeks-sprawling, season-gutting playoff and those who try to pretend that T.K. Wetherall was wrong. He's not: There will be a playoff eventually, though his ascribing it to "money" is to only brush up against the reason why.

There will be a playoff because television wants one and, in today's sports world, television gets what television wants. If television wants the NCAA football champion to be determined by seeing which team can catch the largest share of feces being flung by a monkey, then Myles Brand will be visiting the Indianapolis Zoo to look at their primates.

Sure, it might not be called a playoff, but it will be a playoff. It behooves playoff critics and opponents to join the discussion now over what that looming playoff will look like. Otherwise, we're going to get an ugly one, one that will make the 1997 Marlins look like shoo-ins by comparison.

Why, after all this, do I still not want a playoff -- even the playoff system I offered. I can put it no better than Doug did.

Yes, college football's postseason system is a Romper Room of dysfunction on an annual basis, but . . . doesn't that kind of make it unique? Do you really want it to straighten itself out with the cold, ruthless corporate efficiency of the NFL?

I, for one, don't. (For the record, I also think Doug's "Old School Plus One" system would remove some of the chaos, but it's a solid attempt to get rid of the BCS and replace it with something else.)

Maybe I'm too right-brained, but I like the chaos. I revel in watching the wheels come off. I was thrilled by this past season, when Southern Cal lost to Stanford and LSU lost to Arkansas and Ohio State lost to Illinois and West Virginia lost to Pitt and Missouri lost to Oklahoma (again) and nobody seemed to be quite sure where all the teams would be when the music stopped.

It was fun.

In the end, isn't that supposed to be what sports is all about?