You know, ordinarily I try to ignore old fart columnists who write a particularly cranky piece after seemingly falling out of bed or having gone without sex too long, but this article, entitled “The Earmarks of Athletics”, by SI.com’s Frank Deford is so relentlessly obnoxious that it’s provoked a response out of me.
Deford is ticked off that there isn’t any sense of immediate gratification in college football. Why, just imagine, we’re gonna have to wait until January to see Ohio State play again. This makes no sense to him. It’s “sheer lunacy”. To illustrate his point, Deford poses this irrelevant question, which of course he believes is anything but:
What would you think if, after the major league baseball league championships were played, the two winners practiced for a month or so and didn’t play the World Series until around Thanksgiving?
Uh, gee, Frank, I dunno. What would you think if a team that finished with the fourth best record in its conference won the BCS title game? Or if the players and the schools got into a pissing match and just canceled the whole damn postseason? Exactly what does professional baseball have to do with collegiate football in the first place? We’ll never know.
Moving on from there isn’t easy, but he’s game. Since any team that has to wait through this horror, this “purgatory”, before taking the field again will somehow be made different by the delay, it renders the entire outcome of the championship game meaningless. Only Deford doesn’t bother to tell us how Ohio State is changed. I guess we’ll just have to take his word.
Why this madness you ask? Frank is only too happy to explain:
But beyond that, the delayed schedule is inherently indefensible. It only derives from antiquity, because generations ago, bowl games in warm-weather cities were scheduled on New Year’s Day so that intrepid fans of the competing teams up north might have time enough to board choo-choo trains and make the long trek south in the week after Christmas.
Jeezus, I know Amtrak’s service sucks, but what kind of train has this guy been riding on? You could freakin’ run from Penn State to Miami in a month and a half!
Having exhausted this line of reasoning, not to mention his readers, Deford then makes the first oh-so-subtle shift in his attack. There are airplanes, don’t you know. And televisions. For God’s sake, we don’t have to wait until after Christmas to settle this! Except we do – because of those damned coaches who want to keep their kids in pads as long as they can and because of those damned schools that want to make money from the bowls (why they won’t make the same money playing before Christmas is one of those little mysteries Frank glosses over here, but give the man a break – he’s on a roll). The bastards!
And so he drops this little gem: “Bowl games are the earmarks of athletics.” No doubt he dazzled himself when he first thought that up. No doubt he doesn’t have a clue what it means, either. ‘Yo, Frank, earmarks are (1) expenditures that (2) elected officials (3) hide from the public (4) which is forced to pay for them with (5) taxes. Bowl games are (1) athletic events that (2) generate revenue (3) which, in turn, is willingly distributed to schools (4) openly that in turn use the funds to support athletic endeavors (5) and thus avoid sticking the taxpayers – at least for public institutions – with the expense.
These two concepts couldn’t have less in common if they were named Felix and Oscar. To call this a tortured analogy is an insult to torture.
But, finally, we get to what’s really bugging our intrepid author. Wolverines!
But Fox TV, which telecasts the game, and all the other people who make money off college football, don’t want to see an Ohio State-Michigan final. Too regional, too Midwest. Bad for ratings. Instead, Southern California is glamorous and better positioned, demographically, you understand. So as rotten as the system always is, it will also be unfair this year. If Southern Cal beats UCLA this Saturday, which it always does, it will be voted into the championship game strictly on the basis of looks and money.
Now it’s evil Rupert Murdoch’s fault. Nobody will watch poor old Meesheegan, ’cause we all hate the Midwest. Never mind the fact that the first time Michigan and OSU played this year, they drew the highest in-season TV ratings for a college football game in thirteen years.
Assuming Deford gets paid for this kind of stuff, there ought to be some kind of shoddy earmark analogy for that. I’m just too numb to come up with it right now.
I do have an idea for the next hard hitting column from Deford: why the powers-that-be stretch out the Triple Crown too long. Look for it on your newsstands and computer screens as soon as he’s up to it…