The Season that Was, and What Could Have Been


So yeah.  About writing a blog.  I don't want this to turn into some meta-piece about blogging, so I'll keep it simple:  Michigan isn't good at sports, and it's crushing my soul.  The crushing of the soul prevents me from writing, and causes me to not care about things.  Or rather, it causes me to care about other things; things which should probably be my priority anyways, but it was just more fun to focus on Michigan.  I unplugged.  It's not fun writing about bad teams, which is to say that blogging becomes more of a job, and hey - I've already got one of those.  So yes, I'm taking a step back after 2 years of writing semi-daily.  Not going away, mind you, just taking a step back.  End meta.

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I wonder, sometimes, when I'm thinking about College Football, the sport I've more or less loved with startling ferocity for my entire life, whether we're headed down the right path.  By we, of course, I mean us; the people who make college football what it is.  The fans, the players, the coaches, the bloggers, the media, College Gameday, and Bucky the Badger.  I mean all of us.  In the beginning; in those grainy films of sunny Pasadena that look like Chernobyl circa 1987 compared to today's glittering HD, it seemed that the college kids were out there because they liked to play football, and us, the fans, were there because we enjoyed watching them. 

I don't know why it seems that this has changed.  There's a lot of hoopla involved.  That's right: hoopla.  And it's not the good kind that overloads your senses and makes your eyes water, although with one trip over to EDSBS you'll find that there's still plenty of that too.  No, the hoopla, as I'm referring to it, concerns the fact that the means toward the primary goal of every team (BCS Championship) are such that it is counterproductive to play games that people want to watch.  The BCS is set up this way!  This isn't about a playoff, and yay or nay, it's about the fact that this system, in its current format, rewards teams for playing what Brian refers to as tomato cans.  What's more, the NCAA then turns around and rewards those tomato cans for taking their annual trip to the slaughterhouse in the form of a boatload of greenbacks.

Everyone wants to sit back at the end of the season and talk about what happened.  This is not news.  When we talk about it, we inevitably talk about that Alabama vs. Florida SEC championship game, about Stanford kicking ass for the first time since Elway, and about that Texas vs. Nebraska Big XII championship game - and those are great.  But those are also 3 things that stand out to me at the end of a season.  That's it.  I watched, at some point for some duration of time, nearly every team from a BCS conference, and half of the teams from non-BCS conferences play football.  That's probably an exaggeration, but one that's not far off the mark (ask my wife - HEY-O).  Of all that football that I watched, I remember three things.  This may be a time to pass judgement on my comprehension skills, but honestly, what stands out to you as being the marquee moment from this season? Nick Saban all pissed off because he had red Gatorade on his nice white shirt?

Take a look at the top teams in the final BCS standings:

1 Alabama
2 Texas
3 Florida
4 Boise St.
5 Ohio St.

Now let's remember how they got there.  These teams, combined, played 22 games worthof Tomato Cans.  Remove Boise State, who can't help their conference, and you get 12 games worth of Tomato Cans (13 depending on how you count Navy) not counting conference games that schools have to schedule.  Add those in, and you'd get an even more alarming number.  Florida played Charleston Southern, an institution which prior to their 62-3 loss to the Gators, I was not even aware EXISTED, much less played football.  What's more, the current system rewards BOTH institutionsfor agreeing to participate in this bloodbath. 

So when we sit back and think of the 2009 College Football season, we're left with nothing.  Some pretty good games; a few true marquee games (USC v. Ohio State comes to mind); and for every marquee game, 3 Tomato Can games that nobody wants to see.  This season had some great potential.  But instead of having a system in place that rewards teams for playing in games people want to see, we're going to get more of the same.  Some great potential teams that get exactly 2 chances to prove it when they play the other great potential teams in their conference.  If you're lucky, they've both gone undefeated until that point.  If you're unlucky, you're Oklahoma without Sam Bradford getting killed by Texas.  Beyond playing some good games; how sure are you that the eventual National Champion is any good when the sample size of measurable contests is so small?  Michigan was terrible throughout most of the season, but had they played just one more Tomato Can, they would have been bowling.  If they got lucky and beat the 7th place SEC team in that bowl; would that be a successful season?  It's the same team.  What's more, that additional Tomato Can would have gotten a huge payday for accepting.  It's win-win except for the fan.

But let's look at this through the lens of the players, a group of which I was never a part of.  I know they'll all tell you they want marquee games and marquee matchups, but in some ways, are glorified scrimmages a necessity for health reasons?  Do teams need that break?  This isn't the NFL, after all, and despite what it looks like, the VAST majority of participants aren't good enough to play in that league.  Are we, the fans, being greedy?  Do we just need to shut up and watch what's given to us because what's given to us is what the players - the one'sputting in the work - can handle?  Going back to those grainy picture of Pasadena, do we just need to shut up and be happy with what these purportedly student athletes are giving us?

Like most things, the answer probably lies in the middle somewhere.  I do know that the current system is broken.  A playoff likely won't fix it all, and I don't offer any solutions, which makes me of little help.  The season in 2009 is in the books.  It gave us a lot of "blah" and a few good memories.  I'm sure Alabama fans would tell it differently.  But when I look at what could have been, with the talent that was returning for everyone, I can't help but feel a little cheated that instead of watching Florida play some teams from other BCS conferences, they gave us 4 Tomato Cans and were rewarded for it.  It's the same for everybody. 

So here's to the season that was; forgive me if I shed a tear for what could have been.

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