Football! done for another season

I kind of want to spread this — my thoughts on the just concluded college football season and whatever other football-related feelings I have — out over a couple posts. But we’ll see. Let’s start with this.

Way back on December 30, when I sent the weekly update to the editors of my morning journal, I told them I would be taking New Year’s Day and January 2 off (yay!). “I'll be binging on bowl games,” I wrote.

I was sure neither of our European editors were familiar with bowls games, and, sure enough, our editor in the Netherlands responded with “Please explain bowl games;-).”

Man. How does one explain something as unconventional and weird as the college football bowl system to a Dutchman, especially when there is nothing comparable anywhere else in the world? I could not help but feel daunted by the task, but I did my best. Here is my response:

Bowls are the post-season games played by college football teams. The teams are matched according to their season records, so the teams with the best records usually play each other. I assume they are called "bowl games" because the first were played in large, bowl-style stadiums, like the Rose Bowl. The bowl games are played during the winter holidays, and the biggest games are played around New Years.

I'm trying to think of a comparison to something in European soccer, but college football in the US has a pretty weird system. (College sports are a big deal in the US. There is a lot of debate right now about its fairness since the players are unpaid "students" (many are just professional athletes in training) and the schools rake in millions of dollars for sponsorship deals and television rights. I think it is totally unfair and should be reformed or dismantled.) I suppose it would be like the Eredivisie champion playing against the Bundesliga champion every year to end the season.

It is hard to explain but I hope that helps.

I think I did a decent job. He got the point, and even mentioned how the “unfairness” has been covered in the Netherlands.

Despite the excitement it brings — especially this year, with a revamped schedule and the “New Year’s Six” — the bowl system is pretty messed up. I suppose that goes for college sports in general, but let’s stick with the bowls. We all know it’s messed up, and the entire system, by itself, does not decide or prove anything. (I think one could argue that it does offer a way to compare conferences.)

But what was painfully evident this year, as Ohio State — the fourth ranked team to end the regular season — won the first ever national championship decided using the (limited) four-team playoff, was how truly awful the BCS system was and the fallibility of the Top 25 rankings, which previously created a match-up of teams that were supposedly the best in the country. We all knew they may not be, and many years they were not. But now think of all those third- and fourth-ranked teams that may have been the best in the country and were never given the opportunity to prove it, on the field, as Ohio State did last night.

I said it last year and I will say it again: I think the bowl system needs to be abandoned. It is a dinosaur. It should be replaced by a win-or-go-home playoff of 24 teams, as is played on the FCS level. Sure, nostalgia tugs at my heart strings, and I will remain open-minded regarding a way to keep the bowls as consolation awards for the teams that get bumped from the playoff. But it is time to move on and get rid of them.

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