Someone out there in the mediaverse had a great analogy the other day as to why anybody humbugging the rematch of LSU and Alabama tonight has it all wrong, and I certainly wish I could remember what it was.
But trust me. It was a real pip.
It also reminded me of how much progress we’ve made in settling the national championship of college football. We’ve gone from the Stone Age of arguing over the legitimacy of polling writers and coaches to The Now of arguing over whether a team that failed to win not only its conference title but even its division within that conference belongs in the conversation.
I’m of another mind altogether, that Son of LSU-Bama isn’t enough. I’m proposing a best-of-seven.
I figure that by the time they reach the deciding game, even the biggest no-life SEC bubba will be so sick of it that he’ll be lunging for his TV remote to click over to PBS and phoning in his donation to its annual fund drive.
Or at least to ask if he can tailgate in the station parking lot.
The Rose Bowl was once known as the Granddaddy of Them All, though lawyers are working feverishly to cut the Chick-Fil-A Bowl out of the will. Tonight’s BCS Championship Game, meanwhile, will be fondly recalled as the Stepson of That Game in November, back when LSU beat Alabama on Alabama’s field in front of Alabama’s fans only to discover weeks later that, hey, it didn’t count. Not really.
You’ll no doubt be among the millions tuning in tonight, if only for confirmation that the long national nightmare of bowl season is at last at an end.
Thirty-five games. Three of them in New Orleans alone. Hasn’t that city suffered enough?
Like the holiday tree it trims, the bowl season is a grand tradition: colleges extorted into buying tens of thousands of tickets many can’t peddle and taking financial baths, which they cover by whisking gaggles of fat cats off to the game in a cloud of cognac and cigar smoke and getting them to unholster their checkbooks.
The highlight this year was UCLA surrendering what was left of its dignity to petition for entree to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl despite a losing record, an interim coach and a program in which the greatest commitment is to a “skip day.” Naturally, the Bruins lost again, becoming the first 6-8 team in the history of college football.
Brand that, Larry Scott.
OK, there was some real excitement for the Pac-12, too. The Alamo Bowl shootout was a great teaser for the upcoming Arena Football League season and led to the firing of Nick Holt, who in 2012 will be paid $650,000 to not coach defense at the University of Washington, as he was the previous three seasons.
“Settling” for the Rose Bowl was initially a disappointment for Oregon, until it realized it wouldn’t have to be embarrassed by an SEC team again. And the Fiesta Bowl was notable for Stanford coach David Shaw taking the ball out of the hands of the best player in college football for both the last drive in regulation and overtime, apparently thinking Nick Holt was coaching the other guys.
Hey, other conferences have managed to get in on the good times, too. The Orange Bowl was the worst rated BCS bowl telecast in history, meaning, viewers wanted to watch it even less than Clemson wanted to play in it.
Which brings us to tonight.
The rematch is yet another cudgel for those clamoring for a legitimate playoff, whatever the format, though of course it will once again be lost that tournaments don’t settle which team is best but merely which team is the last to win.
It’s not the same thing, and it’s only underscored by having two teams playing each other again.
Does anyone truly think that Villanova was the best basketball team when it beat Georgetown for the national title in 1985? Nova had already lost to the Hoyas twice. Same with Kansas and Oklahoma in 1988.
Now, no one bothered to split the hair in those cases because a long-established tournament was in place to force a reckoning. And no one would much care if LSU and Bama had reached this destination starting from scratch in an eight-team bracket.
But they didn’t.
And if I’m a voter in the AP poll, which has no connection to the BCS, I’d have a clear conscience voting LSU No. 1 after tonight’s game if the Tigers lose a one-score game. I’d attach more value to an away-game victory on a regular week’s preparation than I would a loss on neutral ground after a month off.
But if the idea of a rematch is unsatisfying, the result doesn’t have to be. Rematches produced The Thrilla in Manila, Affirmed vs. Alydar, Andrew Jackson over John Quincy Adams.
In fact, we could have used one in 1966, when Ara Parseghian decided to defer to Take-a-Knee Jesus and too many sports writers couldn’t bear to tell their parish priests that they voted Michigan State No. 1 instead of Notre Dame.
Of course, Alabama was 11-0 that year. Had the BCS existed then, the Tide still would have been left out.
I’m telling you, best-of-seven is the way to go.
John Blanchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org