|Monday, December 10
Updated: December 11, 10:58 AM ET
Everybody's unhappy as BCS shakes out
By Ray Ratto
Special to ESPN.com
There is no rage quite like the rage of the college football fan scorned. From the rarefied air and hip-deep snowdrifts of Boulder, Colo., to the fir trees, jogging trails and Birkenstocked tracks of Eugene Ore., people are shaking their fists and emitting great curses at the parade of thickies who comprise the National Coagulation of Athletic Accumulators.
In other words, they want the lousy BCS system to have picked their team instead of the team they picked.
Now while we generally regard any grouping of athletic directors to be a mobile shakedown unit, wondering how it is that the laws against aggressive panhandling lack the requisite elasticity to haul these goobers into court, we have to say this.
Perhaps you didn't realize this, but the BCS (a.k.a. The Preferred Power Tool Of Satan Himself) was designed by the same master craftsmen who designed the original sportswriters' poll -- the same master craftsmen who know that the whole idea isn't to settle arguments, but to fuel them.
After all, what is a fan but a person who does not accept the facts when they mitigate against the fan's most fervent beliefs? You think people in Lincoln, Neb., are burning Jon Swofford in effigy this evening? No. They got away with it. They're happy as hell.
But we are Americans, and we much prefer a mass scream-in with beers all around to a quick round of "Kumbaya" around the campfire. Fact is, the one thing that separates us from the animals is ceaseless bitching.
Thus, in giving us a national championship game that will satisfy nobody, even if Miami wins, the BCS has worked precisely the way it is designed to work. It has created not one national championship game, but a "We Got Screwed" national championship game in Tempe, with "If Miami loses, then maybe we get to be the national champions" on the side.
This is the logic that keeps boxing from collapsing in on itself -- when in doubt, forge a new championship belt. Now, there are actually more boxers with a title from some freshly-invented sanctioning organization than there are boxers.
The logic? Who doesn't want to be a champion?
This has also worked in kids' sports for decades, ever since the invention of the participants' trophy. Just showing up is its own reward, and while that may warm the heart of the 6-year-old neophyte who likes recognition with a milk shake chaser any time he or she can get it, it loses its meaning after awhile.
So the folks who created the BCS have produced the perfectly flawed system, a triumph of planned obsolescence, replete with hand-wringing in mock concern over all the dissatisfied customers.
And that's a far more inspiring accomplishment than building a system that makes everyone happy -- creating that makes everyone unhappy.
The last time such a system worked this effectively was the organization of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
There are only two college football systems that would work -- a full playoff system that takes all 115 Division 1-A teams and puts them in a first team to win seven in a row wins it all, or the old hung-over-sportswriters-going-over-the-scores-in-the-Sunday-paper.
Well, we know why the playoff system won't happen, and nobody wants to leave any job in the hands of sportswriters -- even sportswriting.
This is the one that's left, and it's pure brilliance. Now people will care about the Fiesta Bowl, too, as the parallel universe national championship game. And in future years, games like TCU-Southern Mississippi take on a national importance they wouldn't normally have in a hundred years.
It just takes the wit to see it. This is the athletic directors' masterwork -- the system that isn't, the math with crooked numbers, the championship without a champion. There isn't a three-card monte dealer in New York who doesn't whistle in admiration at the purity of the scam.
And best of all, we will have it until 2006, and perhaps even beyond. It's this kind of labyrinthine ingenuity that made America great.
Ask any Nebraskan if you don't believe us. He'll be the one with the bird-eating grin.
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.