Sunday, December 5, 2010

Can I get a larger slice of pie, please?

I'm tired of college football.  I've often been perturbed by it.  But after an ugly series of events(1) during Thanksgiving weekend, which led my brother Nathaniel to suggest that he would now boycott college football, I couldn't help but agree with his rationale.  It's just a mess.  And we watch it for the wrong reasons.

The college football model is one of "haves" and "have-nots".  Its motto is "Keep the little man down."   Their idea, lately, is that an unfair system will lead to controversy, which will generate interest, which will boost ratings, which will lead to lucrative TV contracts and big advertising money. And it works.

There are some people who like the system because it gives their team an advantage.  It's kind of like if you were born into the upper level of a rigid caste system and you thought, "Man, this caste system is awesome!  I'll always be at the top!"  Most people, on the other hand, realize the system is unfair, and wish for a change.  But both groups have something in common:  they watch the games.  They may whine and complain about the injustices, but they still watch.  And as a result, they feed the beast.  They become part of those controversy-boosted ratings which generate huge profits.

Now, even though the college football model "works" (makes quite a bit of money), I believe they would make a lot more money if they switched to a playoff system(2).  So why don't they?  I think there are two main reasons.
  1. It's new.  It would be a departure from their tried-and-tested model of controversy = ratings.  So if you're already making billions of dollars with minimal effort, why change your approach?  That's pretty understandable.  The other reason is less so. 
  2. The people in charge want to maintain their larger slice of pie.  Teams from the six BCS conferences get a lot more money than teams from the other five conferences, and a huge recruiting advantage, and they don't want that to change.  They have "Bigger Slice of Pie Syndrome".  It's a serious condition.  
Those are the two major reasons why college football doesn't change.  They don't want to try something new when their unfair system beautifully generates billions of dollars already.  And the people in charge want to keep their larger pie slices.

To illustrate further, imagine yourself in a room.  In front of you is a table, and one it are two iterations of your favorite kind of pie.  Only, one of the pies is very large, and the other is small.  In this room there also happen to be ten of your friends.  Now you are given with two choices: 
  • Option A: You can select the large pie, divide it into eleven equal slices (hard to do, by the way) and share it with all your friends.  You are told, however, that if you do this, there's a 0.1% chance the pie will spontaneously combust, and you will be left with no pie.  Also, you are warned that if you share the pie equally with your friends, they may become very powerful from the pie-nutrition (or "pietrition").  And who knows but that next time your friends will be the ones dividing the pie?  Perhaps with their newfound pie-strength they will no longer fear you, and will give you a smaller slice.  These seem like valid concerns to you.  
  • Option B: You can select the small pie, cut a piece comprising 90% of it for yourself, and then leave the rest to be divided among your friends.  You strongly consider doing this because, even though you'll actually be getting less pie, there's not that 0.1% chance of the pie spontaneously combusting.  Gotta go with a sure thing, right?  Plus, you can't have your friends getting pie-strength.  Who knows what they can do with pie-strength?  Pie-strength is a thing of legends. 
So which do you choose?  If you choose the first option, you're a reasonable person.  If you choose the second, you're college football (and a hero to supporters of caste systems everywhere!).

And that's great and dandy that they're going to keep doing this, keep hogging pie and fearing new frontiers.  I can't do very much about it.  But starting today, no longer will I be part of the controversy-generated-ratings-boosting crowd of mindless followers.  Starting today, I renounce college football(3),(4).  And you should too.

Join the movement. 


1.  Auburn somehow came back from a 21-0 deficit against Alabama, and Boise St. lost because their kicker choked twice.  (Plus BYU lost to Utah, which is always a downer for humanity.)  But more important than what these games meant for the race to the BCS title game, was how they begged the question:  Why should we care?  They were part of the fabricated drama, and part of our being drawn in, hopeful for the little guy to get a fair shot.  Only, those hopes are dashed 99 times out of 100, because the cards are stacked against them.

2.  A college football playoff system is easy to design, and there's no reason to believe it wouldn't generate a ridiculous amount of money.  Though there are other reasonable methods, I think the best system would be a 16-team playoff including the conference champions from all eleven conferences, plus five other teams chosen by a committee.  The first two rounds would be home games for the higher-seeded team, and the last two rounds (three games) would be played in high-profile bowl games.  I assert that all arguments made against such a system are disingenuous attempts to preserve the current, unfair system.

3. The one exception to this will be watching my own team.  I'm a fan of BYU, and I will continue to watch their games.  But I won't be drawn in by the fabricated drama of the "national championship" chase.  There's no such thing as a national championship in the BCS, so why should I care?  And BYU's approach, starting next year, largely aligns with my perspective.  When they decided to leave the Mountain West Conference and become independent, they knew this would actually decrease their chances of playing in a BCS game.  But they didn't care.  What they cared about was exposure, or in other words getting out of the crappy TV contracts of the MWC so their fans can watch games.  And starting next year that will be a lot easier, with games on ESPN and BYUTV (instead of "mtn.").  As a bonus, they will also make more money.  Screw the BCS. 

4.  Admittedly, there are good reasons to "renounce" many other sports or leagues as well. NBA players make way too much money.  Professional baseball is boring, and both the season and individual games are way too long.  The NFL causes a lot of head injuries which lead to premature dementia.  Plus it's played on Sunday, when it's better to be doing other things. And hockey isn't very fun to watch.  So by all means, stop watching those other sports, too.  I've hardly watched any baseball or hockey during the past ten years.  But at least all of those sports can say undefeated teams get to compete for a championship.  College football is not only unfair, but enjoys using that unfairness to lure us in.  And I won't be lured any longer.


  1. Looks can be deceiving - i.e., the tasty-looking pie could have had salt put in in place of sugar.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. But Nathaniel is correct that that pie looks tasty. And it's a very interesting blog (all new info to moi)!

  4. Does this mean Christmas break will not be scheduled around bowl games? Hallelujah.

  5. It's coconut cream pie. There is always that chance that all the sugar was replaced with salt, so watch out if you get a chance to try it. Glad you like the blog Mom. And Annie, I guess that depends on whether everyone else decides to renounce the games as well. We can hope.

  6. So will you be participating in College Bowl Mania?

  7. Yeah, I'll still do it this year if other people are. I'm already extremely familiar with the teams. I just won't watch the games. I'll approach it more like Annie. She usually does well anyway.

  8. Ben, come visit us please! We will are moving in just under a week, so anytime after the beginning of February would be great. Hope to see you sometime soon.

  9. Hey Ben, this is David Hill. Looks like you have been busy in the blogging field and in the field of good food! I hope you are not making a race to become one of the many diabetic podiatric patients I am sure you care for. Hope things are going well and that we can actually get some BYU games next year! Living in Des Moines precluded any chance of watching BYU play until now. Hope things are going well for you.