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Don’t call margarine real butter
By: Richard Linde, Posted 9 December 2003

Like margarine is to butter, the BCS championship in college football has never been a real national championship. Hence, the problem with the BCS isn’t the computers used to determine part of the point totals. The problem isn’t with the human polls. The problem isn’t with an arcane formula or an unknown algorithm in some guy’s computer; the problem isn’t with Trojan horses that the BCS computer programmers don’t know about.

Who cares whether one of the computers rated Miami of Ohio over USC? Who cares that even the computers can’t agree among themselves? No surprise, the programs executing inside of the computers are written by human beings. *

Who cares about the mantra below?

“Son, if you want to play in a game for the national championship, don’t go to Washington—or to any other Pac-10 school for that matter. No team from the Pac-10 has ever played in the BCS championship game, and none ever will.” Can’t you hear the coaches from the other five BCS conferences say that to a 5-star nugget from a California high school this recruiting season?

Even that coaches' hubris wouldn’t make me mad if the real problem were addressed.

The problem with the whole apparatus is the sportswriters of America. They need to give the whole, ugly affair that leads to the “championship” an appropriate billing; if they did people wouldn’t be unhappy with the results or be laughing in the streets as they are today.

The sports media need to call this mess, as it is presented to us every year, a mythical national championship—with the emphasis on mythical. Sportswriters used to talk about mythical champions in football years ago.

In the future, each and every time a sportswriter writes about a so-called title game in football, he should write that team x and team y are vying for a mythical national championship, an imaginary one, not a real one.

That notion needs cementing in everyone’s minds. The word mythical should be part of every football fan’s vocabulary. If it is not, collectively we fall into the trap of looking at all the sticks and vegetation growing in the forest without seeing the growth in its entirety.

As simple as it may sound, one silly word sets us free from mental entrapment.

Let’s not pretend the BCS title game is something it is not. This year, LSU and Okalahoma are playing for one-half of an imaginary title, as is USC in the Rose Bowl-- assuming it beats Michigan and the AP writers name it number one.

Who cares if your team wins an imaginary title, if it’s not for real? Fans of an imaginary champion have no bragging rights to use against fans of the other 116 teams in Division I-A football. However, fans of Kansas State trump fans of Oklahoma because the Wildcats won the Big 12 title. That much can be bragged about.

Don’t we have laws relating to truth in advertising? Can you misrepresent a product you’re trying to sell? Are used-car salesmen allowed to roll back odometers?

Likewise, are there no ethics left in journalism? Oh, I forgot, follow the money. The BCS is a huge cash cow for the six conferences involved and that cash cow sells papers.

Even so, after the big game, let’s hope that headline writers across the country will write:

“LSU wins mythical championship,” or vice versa. And put the story on the back pages of the newspaper, where it belongs.

Without a playoff system in place, the BCS title game--no matter how much tweaking of the BCS formula take place or how much hullabaloo and hyperbole are presented to the public by the media--will always be an imaginary one.

Just call the titular results of the game imaginary, unreal, mythical, virtual, you name it, and I’ll be happy with the results.

 Ma, pass the margarine, not the butter.


* Footnote: Trojan horses are unintended artifacts clandestinely placed by an intruder in someone’s computer through the process of computer sharing, like sharing computers on the internet. For example, once you access the internet, you’re sharing your computer with someone else, whether you like it or not. The process of trusting the integrity of the computers used by the BCS formula is another subject. Simply stated, unless an iron fence surrounds the perimeter housing a BCS computer, it cannot be trusted to produce its intended results. Similarly, if the BCS program inside the computer runs with other processes, like a driver, say, it cannot be trusted.

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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