As the college football season descends into chaos, the subject of playoffs is again coming up. Which, as many of you know, I oppose. One of the main reasons for that opposition is that playoffs can render regular seasons moot.
Long before I took this stance, I got an object lesson in this. A particularly absurd one. This is more a telling of a story than a post about the BCS. I said almost all I have to say about college football playoffs here.
I am not a particularly athletic person. But there are two things to keep in mind: I started playing little league from a very young age. And I was pretty good at baseball. On the first point, it meant that while I didn’t have a whole lot of talent at sports like basketball or soccer, I was at least considerably more practiced than most. So when we played these things in PE, I was actually an asset to anyone willing to overlook that I was fat.
When it came to basketball, the “team leader” - Donnie - was not particularly willing to overlook that even despite the fact that I was 6′0″ tall in the 8th grade. There were six to a team and he had me swapping in and out for the 5th spot only because everybody had to play. One time we had six and the other team had four and I played for the opposing team and did remarkably well. It didn’t matter, though. I was not very athletic-looking. Our team came in second place (of six) overall, though. First and second place won a week of free time (fifth and sixth had a week of running laps).
After basketball came softball. This time there were only two teams. Donnie was one of the team captains. The other was Cory. Cory was on my little league team. Because he - like myself - was plugged in to the local little league, he knew who was good and who was not. So while Donnie was picking the jock-types, Cory was picking people he knew to be good. Donnie actually chuckled when I was Cory’s third pick, Cory, for his part, said he actually would have picked me sooner - as I was the best hitter on our little league team - but he knew he could wait for me. We both agreed he should have waited longer since it was apparent Donnie wasn’t going to pick me any time soon.
We destoyed them. Day after day, game after game. There were a lot of games because the mercy rule was called into effect regularly and we started over. Every now and again they would get lucky. We won 15 and they won twice. On the last day, the coaches announced it was the last day and that we were playing a “championship game.” And wouldn’t you know it, they won their third game that day. The end result? They had a week of free time and we had a week of running laps*.
What stood out to me was that nobody thought there was anything wrong with this. So hardwired into our thinking that a playoff is how champions are determined, that this seemed perfectly fair to everybody involved. We’d had a playoff for basketball, hadn’t we? Well yes, because there were six teams, two of which had tied for first and a third was only one game back. This, on the other hand, was essentially stating that the first 17 games were scrimmages.
* - I say a week, but it was probably only a couple of days. The 15-2 record I am more sure about. If I’m off, it’s not by more than a game or two in either direction. I know they won no more than three games. I know we won no less than 13.