Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Bowl Championship Scam

If there's any remaining doubt that American sports culture is driven by pure greed & a bottomless lust for ratings (hands? anyone?), then the recent screwing of the Cal Bears and the Auburn Tigers by the Bowl Championship Series should help to bury it under several tons of concrete.

As sports geeks know, Auburn, which went 12-0 overall, and 9-0 in the SE-Fuckin'-C, one of the toughest conferences in the nation, was rewarded with a Sugar Bowl game against twice-beaten Virginia Tech. Seems the BCS honchos were unimpressed with Auburn's remarkable season, leaving them out of the national championship game in favor of Oklahoma, also 12-0, but from the comparably weaker Big 12 conference. The Sooners, a perennial BCS fave, will meet 12-0 USC in the Orange Bowl for what passes for the national championship.

California got reamed even worse, their 10-1 season (the sole loss was to Number 1 USC in a very close game) ending in a pathetic Holiday Bowl appearance against 7-4 Texas Tech.

You'd think that with Pac 10 champ USC playing in the Orange Bowl, Cal would represent the conference in the Rose Bowl against 9-2 Michigan. Ha! Thanks to Cal's refusal to run up the score on an already-beaten Southern Mississippi, combined with the public groveling for votes by Texas head coach Mack Brown and sudden shifts in the AP & Coaches' polls (Cal was ranked ahead of Texas until the end of the season, when the Bears were dropped from No. 4), the Longhorns will play in Pasadena on New Year's Day.

Of course, the millions that pour into the major conferences from the BCS Bowls has something to do with the present fix (though, in fairness, Texas won't get the maximum $14.5 mil from the Rose, since they are the second Big 12 team in a BCS game). TV ratings matter too, and I'm sure there are few network execs who rubbed their hands anticipating a Michigan/Cal match up (I doubt that Utah v. Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl, however alluring to die-hard college football fans, is sending ABC Sports into fits of joy). But what depresses me is the idea that Cal is a "soft" 10-1 -- that they didn't pile on Southern Mississippi to "impress" the BCS and the nation's coaches. Why is this a consideration? Why must winning teams beat their opponents into paste well after victory is assured? Football is a violent, war-like sport, but the better warriors exhibit a more balanced approach to combat.

American sports culture thrives on humiliation and subjugation. Worse, many if not most sports fans like it that way. Listen to the howling and baying on sports radio and you'll get the idea.

As far determining a real, college football national champion goes, a year-end playoff would settle all the on-field questions. There are those who warn that a playoff would destroy the current bowl system, but seeing how bowl games are currently handled, I'd say that the traditional system has already been trashed. In any event, there's no way that the major conferences will submit to a playoff anytime soon, given the financial perks they receive from the BCS and the endless manipulation of the bowl games.

My Rose Bowl pick? Go Blue!