Thursday, December 30, 2004


***Football warning: Stop here if you don’t want to here my idiotic sports blatherings***
Please scroll down for more sensible comic talk

I will be watching collage football on new years day (LSU plays Iowa in the Capitol One Bow), which is something I haven’t done in a while. I’m a huge LSU fan (went there for undergrad, medical, and graduate school), and think that, overall, they have been greatly wronged by the collective sports media during the past year. But my son goes to USC, and I think I have some perspective on the issue, and you won’t see me with a FUSC shirt on.

For those not in the know, Oklahoma, USC, and LSU were 1,2, and 3 going into the conference championship weekend. Oklahoma lost to K State, LSU won against Georgia, and the Pac10 doesn’t play a championship. Thus, the AP poll had USC 1, LSU 2, and Oklahoma 3. But the rank that determined the championship bowl (the BCS or BCE) had Oklamoma 1, LSU 2, and USC 3, due to complex rules including strength of scedule. The consensus opinion was that USC and LSU deserved to play (some thought USC and Oklahoma), but the system dictated LSU vs. Oklahoma. LSU won. The AP poll voted USC 1 anyway, the coaches poll violated their agreement with the BCS and voted USC 1, The BCS had LSU as 1. So LSU wins the championship game, but is 2nd in the major 2 polls. LSU has one trophy that says National Champion at the bottom, USC has 2. So, this is a problem. Bad for USC (didn’t have a chance to prove themselves). Bad for LSU (met all the requirements, won game, still don’t get full credit). Bad for Oklahoma (everyone hates them because they “didn’t belong” in the game). People rail at the BSC system. And over the year LSU, who won the national championship game, has been systematically written out of the position of national champion.

The main agent of this has been ESPN, which has been pretending all year that USC are THE National Champions. I personally would have preferred the nomenclature of LSU as the National champs and USC as the #1 team as a rule, which would seem to be more of a correct apportionment (seeing as LSU won the championship game), but even the split championship idea isn’t being acknowledged (even in a Roger Maris 61* kind of way). If you turn on the tube, it’s like USC were undisputed champs.

Having talked to many USC students, I can tell you that there is a general arrogance about the championship, but I do not think this is specific for this issue. USC is just arrogant. They are a great school academically (far better than LSU) with one of the best football program histories (better than LSU’s – no doubt about it). But one reason they are so easy to hate is a pall of superciliousness over the basic “school pride.” So I don’t think that USC itself has really contributed to the championship travesty, except to collectively say “of course we’re the real champions,” which is in perfect harmony with other past and present actions. Short version – it’s not USC’s fault because they’ve always been assholes.

I’m not going to further analyze the whys and wherefores of this issue. There are a lot of major and minor contributing factors (anti-SEC bias, pro USC-bias, game availability to voters, specific bad decisions in the BCE system, the SEC knocking its own teams out of contention year after year, groupthink, a tendency to use or not use facts to support gut level conclusions), but several things are noteworthy about the outcome of the controversy. First, the BCE rules were changed this year by trying to remove some of the objective component of the system. In other words, the sports-media complex doesn’t like it when the facts get in the way of their conclusions, so it’s back to the popularity contest. Second, no one is even talking about USC “legitimizing” their championship. This is really odd on a basic psychological front as whatever they “won” last year is undeniably tainted, and Leinert will likely leave after this season. So anyone who has ever competed in anything should realize that this game has to be important to USC being considered the “real” champions, but there is nary a peep on this front. Third, we’ve already seen the boo-hoo for Auburn (the undefeated #3 team this year) come and go, and (mark my words) no one will consider this championship split or tainted in any way if if a bowl winning undefeated Auburn winds up #2, because there is a general comfortability with the SEC team being left out. I feel really sorry for the Mountain West, whose teams have looked really good this year but no one will take seriously. The fact that no one acknowledges the conferencism and programism is just weird (Notre Dame, for example, is ALWAYS overrated). Fourth, I think things look really bad for LSU with Sabin leaving. A big recruiting class was coming in, and there is a very high rate of these guys un-committing as we speak. The offer from the Dolphins sounds like it was too good to pass up, but I wonder if the championship fiasco influenced his leaving at all.
But being national champions is like being Miss America – you’re only “it” for a year, and that experience can be contaminated by events, but for the rest of time, you were “it,” and noone can take that away. Except maybe ESPN.


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