Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Immutable Law of Sports

College football's champ is chosen tonight without any real idea of who was the best team in 2009. Boise State didn't play a great schedule in the WAC but they beat Oregon and TCU. TCU was undefeated in the regular season this year and beat Utah who of course beat Alabama (my pick tonight) in a bowl game last year. Of course, this is unfair. But it suggests the absurdity of the present system. I wrote about this a while back:
the current system maximizes the incentive to set a lame schedule, rewards teams that play in well-respected (even if bad) conferences, and insults the integrity of players and the notion of team. Football, by virtue of its violence, has less frequent and much more heavily scrutinized and intensely played games than other sports. Every down in a football game is a battle. A team is forged over a season - players emerge, strategies are refined, cohesion is hard-won. This suggests two often overlooked truths. 1) A loss can make a team better. 2) Apparently overmatched teams with lesser recruits can beat apparently superior teams through strategy, cohesion and sheer force of will. The present system rewards teams judged best in the preseason, necessarily on history and before any games are played. Those teams will remain on top if they don't lose and will receive substantial reconsideration even if they do lose. Opinions, often set in the preseason, are a horrible substitute for playing games. Despite myriad objections from athletic directors, college presidents and bowl game sponsors, a playoff system in college football is viable. A college football playoff might become the biggest sporting event in America. And it would restore to college football the immutable law of sports: Winning makes you the better team. People seem to have forgotten that.
(image credit: Boise State celebrates, Jacobsohn/Getty, via