Paradoxology by Krish Kandiah, Free for CAPC Members
Paradoxology provides an apologetic for uncertainty and a defense of discomfort.
Each week in The Holy Huddle, Doug Hankins takes a look at the goings on of the sports world from a distinctly Christian perspective.
We finally have a playoff system for the highest level of collegiate football. This past Tuesday, BCS presidents approved a four-team playoff for the national championship that begins in 2014. But, the question remains: What did fans gain with this new playoff format? Did we achieve the goal of settling the age-old debate about the true champion of college football? Or did we simply create room for further speculation and debate?
My personal belief is that the new playoff format is a step, but not a leap, in the right direction. The thing college football organizers fail to realize is that fans participate based on the three laws of sports:
These laws help illuminate why we love March Madness. It is a fair system that produces one heck of an entertaining tournament. It is also why we bristled at the former BCS championship. It was grossly unfair and only occasionally entertaining. Consider this past year’s championship game. It featured Alabama versus LSU—two teams that had already played against each other during the regular season (a 9–6 win for LSU). Why were we watching two teams play each other again? This was neither entertaining nor fair.
Games like LSU–Bama II reveal the other, more pressing laws of sports—the ones that college presidents, conference commissioners, and media members live by:
After all, who stood to gain the most when LSU played Alabama in New Orleans? It wasn’t the fans of college football.
LSU–Bama II produced the lowest TV rating for a national championship game in the BCS era. However, it made a lot of money for ESPN and for businesses in the New Orleans/Alabama/Louisiana area. This match up in the title game reveals that the profit laws of college sports are the priority. And thus, we understand the driving logic behind the new four-team playoff. Make money first, consider fairness second. Ergo: Four-team playoff.
Before you let out a “Hallelujah” for the four-team fair playoffs, consider these lingering philosophical problems with the selection of the four teams:
So who will determine the four teams for the playoffs? Arbitrary rankings, a non-ZSG won-loss column, and teams who win outside of a true head-to-head matchup? Sheesh!
Bottom line: A four-team playoff is a good step toward fair, but not the leap that fans desire. Until organizers discover a way to make the system of wins and losses evenly weighted and determine ways to make the regular season contain substantial head-to-head match ups, then a ranking system will be unfair. And to determine the best four teams based on an unfair ranking system is less than what college fans deserve.
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