Monday, December 04, 2006

At first blush, it appears that the University of Florida jumped over the University of Michigan in the BCS standings because a number of voters took changed circumstances into account. The Gators won the SEC Championship, and thus deserved to play the Big Ten Champion in the National Championship Game. This argument has certainly been made by some sports reporters and talking heads. Mark May, Lou Holtz, and the bozo that sits at the desk with them are three examples. Now, they wouldn't use words like context, but that is there argument. The argument is as silly as they are; and Lou Holtz is pretty silly.

There are two main problems with asserting that Florida should be in the National Championship Game because of changed context. First of all, this only works if you focus only on certain factors and ignore others. Second, Florida proponents don't give a flying @#$% about context, they are either trying to correct past injustices done to the SEC (unfortunately this is about as fair and sensical as it is when it is employed by the Oscar or other awards show folks -- essentially Florida is Jack Palance or Susan Lucci), or they are simply trying to avoid a rematch (that horror of horrors that never happens in any other sport -- what is that, you say it happens in EVERY other sport, oh well).

Let's tackle the context approach, which would be the right one if the actual context was being considered. Florida has a tougher schedule. This is true. It was true last week too. And Michigan isn't exactly West Virginia, so I am not sure why this is such a strong argument. The SEC was the best conference. If this is true, and I haven't been overly impressed by any of the SEC teams this year (I don't give a shit about how tough the conference was last year -- that was last year), then it was still true last week. Florida is a conference champion. Yes, that is true, but so what. So is Oklahoma, and it might be a better football team. Where does it say that the National Championship Game must involve two conference champions? Isn't supposed to be between the two best teams. No one seems to be seriously asserting that Florida is better than Michigan, except maybe in Florida. Vanderbilt played both Florida and Michigan, and they think Michigan is the better team, like everyone else. If this change is about taking a different context into account, than I'm not sure what context it is.
No, this is not an example of good decision making. This is actually an example of typical American decision making. First we locate the right and the wrong. Here it is easy, Michigan played Ohio State already so it would be wrong to let them have another shot. And now our decision is done. That was super easy. Yeah. And super wrong, but clear and easy trumps accurate and complicated any day. It doesn't matter that the game is supposedly between the two best teams. It doesn't matter that there is absolutely no evidence that rematches are automatically unfair or uninteresting. The only other factor here is that the average American has the attention span of the average infant. I am sure half the voters don't remember much about the Wolverines at all. How can you expect anyone to remember anything for two whole weeks.
This whole thing would be amusing, if this lack of analytical thinking was limited to sports.

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