Major League Baseball in the United States crowns one World Champion every year. The problem is, it does not offer the rest of the world a chance to compete, except for one team from Canada. Any legitimacy presumes that no team from Japan, the Dominican Republic, or any other place could win. Similarly, every year, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) invites two teams to compete for the National Championship. Historically, the selection presumes that one of the two best teams must come from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and other team. This year, maybe both teams. That’s because losing to another SEC team does not count as much as losing to, say TCU, last year’s No. 2 team. Each year people challenge the BCS presumptions and legitimacy. Debate rages as to which teams should take part. Each year, people scream that we MUST have a playoff to determine, objectively and definitively, which college football team is the best.
Why do we need to resolve the debate among the best 4 or 6 or 8 or 16 teams? Even when two teams play, sometimes the better team does not win because of bad officiating, an injury or some other reason. No, I’m not one of those guys who thinks every player on every kids’ soccer team should get a trophy regardless of wins and losses. In fact, I used to be in the “Blow Up The BCS” camp. Now, I’m firmly opposed to a playoff series for the following six reasons.
Reason # 6: Can the fans really take off work and travel across the country on 2 or 3 or 4 successive weeks?
Reason # 5: The way the bowl games operate, colleges must guarantee a certain number of tickets sold. Will a smaller school need to siphon academic funds to support a run for the title?
Reason # 4: Under the current system, every week is a championship game. The top teams and their fans know that a single loss could doom their chance for the title. As a result, every game offers sudden-death excitement and consequences. For the best programs, that means the regular season is a 12 or 13 game playoff. (By contrast, does anyone really care about the basketball regular season? College or pros?)
Reason # 3: Are college football players student-athletes or just low-compensated performers? Extending the season means continuing to drain their time, energy and focus from school work.
Reason # 2: Extending the season also means continuing to keep students away from their families when they attend school away from home.
Reason # 1: Every time a student-athlete plays football, he risks disabling injury. Adding games increases that risk, which greatly exceeds the benefits of (a) money to the bowl organizers, (b) money to the media and its advertisers, (c) potential money for schools, (d) entertainment for middle-aged guys like me who need to get a life, and (e) deciding who is really the best.
Let the fanatics who care about which team was best in the 2001-2002 season continue the debate for years. Ten years later, let the players on the number 2 and 3 teams nurse their aching knees with their belief that they played on the best team, despite what the BCS declared under its flawed system.