Friday, October 15, 2010

The Stupidest Thing in the World


The entire sporting world – and most of Fantasyland – is waiting anxiously for Sunday’s release of the first BCS standings of the 2010 season. Once made public, these rankings will tell us definitively which teams computers and pollsters believe are the best in the college football. It’s sort of like determining the next president by letting the candidates play a winner-take-all tennis match. Those of you who follow El Hombre closely are quite familiar with his intense disdain for the BCS and revulsion at the people who propagate the sham.

It’s a regular exercise in hilarity, because each week, almost without fail, the rankings are proven to be ridiculous, thanks to wins by lower ranked opponents over their “superiors” or a particularly impressive win by a team believed to be incapable of such behavior. If these rankings fail each week, how can anybody expect them to be accurate at the end of the regular season, when the top two lucky teams play for the “national championship?” It’s a good thing the people who try to jam this thing down fans’ throats each year don’t have to spend any time in the colleges they rank, because they would most assuredly fail logic.

The list of people complicit in the charade is long. It includes conference commissioners of the five major conferences – and the Big East – BCS mouthpiece Bill Hancock, who will most definitely be able to get a job as spokesman for nuclear waste after his stint is done, hypocritical college presidents and media members who use the old “it’s the best thing we have” defense for their sycophantic support of this deception. Perhaps the most culpable are coaches, who can rarely be heard criticizing the BCS, even though it runs counter to their collective core essence. Want to get any coach angry? Tell him his team isn’t as good as another – on paper. That’s exactly what the BCS does, yet coaches aren’t screaming from the mountaintops about its awful methods and outcomes.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to get people to buy a pile of horse manure when you have the loudest carnival barkers in the land selling it. They would be the BCS TV partners, who aren’t about to explain the emperor’s decision to wear no clothing when their fiscal health depends on the ratings (and ad revenues) generated by the sartorial blunder. By the time the “big game” is played, it doesn’t matter whether the combatants have nine losses or pristine slates. The hype that has gone into it convinces the masses that they are seeing a legitimate title tilt, rather than the by-product of voting and calculations, which have replaced blocking and tackling in the minds of many fans as the foundation of football.

Those of us who are forced to pay attention to such things out of professional necessity will be interested to see how the early returns shake out. Will Ohio State, the darling of the pollsters so far (even the motley collection of Harris voters thinks so) be able to supplant Boise State, Oregon and Auburn, all of which are ahead of the Buckeyes in pre-election tracking polls? Will Boise State execute a gradual, two-month slide from consideration, thanks to its lightweight collection of rivals from here on out? Are the Ducks a legitimate high-scoring phenomenon, incapable of being headed by any team from the Pac-10, or are they just fast starters without the necessary stamina to last the entire race?

Is Auburn for real? What do we make of Nebraska and its dashing young QB? How good is Oklahoma? Can LSU keep pulling victories out of its…well, can the Tigers keep winning improbably, and will another couple magical victories land Les Miles a coaching gig at Hogwarts? Will Alabama rebound? Can Michigan State keep it up? Will Utah and TCU make trouble for everybody?

In other words, we don’t know anything yet. The beauty of most sports is that it doesn’t matter at this point, because a true champion will eventually emerge, thanks to a legitimate playoff process. In ridiculous cases, like figure skating and college football, voting holds the most sway, and it’s impossible to tell whether or not the team that is crowned “champion” is really the best. Because the BCS has locked up its paycheck through the 2014 season, we’ll have to wait for a chance to decide things the right way.

In the meantime, study the weekly BCS standings closely. You’ll be quite amused to see teams that have beaten others ranked below their victims, even if the schools have the same records. You’ll notice inconsistencies in the coaches’ poll, where some voters pump their friends and conference mates in order to protect allegiances. And don’t forget about the ever-maddening punishment for late losses, versus earlier slip-ups. A team may have rampaged through the regular season without giving up a point, but if it loses its conference title game, it will suffer the agony of a huge poll drop.

If you want more fun, purchase “Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series,” by Yahoo Sports writers Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan. In it, they do things like show how the BCS Pooh-Bahs kept altering the computer models to get outcomes that better replicate the polls, at the expense of mathematical legitimacy. They delve into the back-room dealings of the “cartel” that runs the thing and show how smaller schools are systematically excluded from the big money. It’s logical, entertaining and infuriating. And it probably won’t make a dent in the BCS stranglehold on the world’s greatest sport, because fans aren’t savvy enough to understand what’s going on, and media members who celebrate the disgrace won’t face facts. In other words, the status quo prevails.

It’s BCS time, everybody. Let the foolishness begin.

* * *

EL HOMBRE SEZ: The University of Mississippi has voted on its new mascot, and the winner is the Rebel Bear. Genius move, since there are fewer than 100 bears in the state. Runner up was the Land Shark. Ah, higher education in the Deep South…Let’s see if El Hombre understands this: The NBA toughens technical foul standards to stop players from whining so much, and the players respond with…more whining. Fan-tastic!...The Pirates have interviewed seven people for their open managerial position but have yet to find someone masochistic enough to take the job. Next up, a few fans of “Glee.”…Another great job by the NHL: The league suspended Chicago tough guy Niklas Hjalmarsson two games for a cheap shot on Buffalo’s Jason Pominville. He’s due back just in time to play…the Sabres. Genius. Buffalo enforcer Patrick Kaleta has already promised retribution. Couldn’t have made it three games, huh fellas? Pominville suffered a concussion and a cut that had to be stitched up. Needed to have that revenge factor, did you? And the league wonders why some people don’t take it seriously…The International Olympic Committee came away pleased with the progress being made in Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Games. Although hotel construction is lagging, the IOC reps were impressed with facilities and the Olympic Gulag, which will house anyone who dares criticize Russian maximum leader Vladimir Putin. Russia also unveiled the ’14 Olympic mascot: a bloated organized crime figure draped in gold chains.

* * *

YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT? Another year, another NLCS appearance for the Phillies – and it never gets boring. The Phils face San Francisco this time, and although the Giants have some great starting pitching, a lights-out closer (Brian Wilson) and a ballpark that has been something of a haunted house for the Phillies, they are decided underdogs. The reason has more to do with experience and knowing how to win than it does with the actual on-field matchups. Sure the Phils are loaded with talent all over the place, but no team in baseball (except maybe the Yankees) knows better how to take full advantage of an opponent’s weaknesses and mistakes better than Philadelphia. They proved it against Cincinnati, and they will no doubt prey on the Giants’ miscues. This will be an entertaining series, if only because of the amazing pitching matchups (Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum is a big-time showdown), but the Phillies prevail – in six – because of their toughness and continued propensity for capitalizing on rivals’ gaffes.

* * *

AND ANOTHER THING: As the media and NFL investigators delve deeper into the unseemly allegations against Cowboy Quarterback, the inevitable backlash has begun. People are wondering why it took so long – two years – for all of this to surface. They’re wondering whether the alleged target of CQ’s affections, Jenn Sterger, is looking for publicity and if she invited the advances. It’s classic table-turn against an alleged victim of harassment, and it stinks. Sterger and CQ didn’t seem to be involved in any relationship, and it appears that Cowboy Quarterback was clearly the pursuer in this. Were the crazy behavior simply a man’s efforts to land his quarry, that would be one thing. Since this involved two employees of the same organization, one of whose status within the concern was far higher than the other’s, this is not only news, it’s big news. The NFL is doing the right thing by investigating this closely. Let’s hope Sterger cooperates fully, along with the two massage therapists who have come forward with information of their own. If Cowboy Quarterback did do this, he must be suspended. And those who are trying to protect him and knock down Sterger need to examine their motivation and perhaps stop with the hero worship.


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