Don’t call margarine real butter
By: Richard Linde, Posted 9 December 2003
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
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
Even that coaches' hubris wouldn’t make me mad if the real problem
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
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
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
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