The most uninspiring show on television this weekend was the “BCS Selection Show” on Fox. No, I take it back. It was actually the most uninspiring show of the year. It wasn’t Fox’s fault. They just happened to be the network that had the rights to show the show. The problem lies with those who make the so-called selections. It’s a farce.
I give my wife and daughters all kinds of heat for wasting valuable time watching shows like “Project Runway,” “America’s Next Top Model” or “Top Chef.” I think of them as non-reality shows masquerading as reality shows. As a sports buff, I’ve always believed that live sports is the best reality show on TV. While the producer can put the production together and the director can line up the camera shots, there is literally nothing anyone can do to affect what goes on the field, or the court, or the ice, or wherever the contest is being played.
But I was shown up this weekend. I found out that—at least when it comes to College Football—the choosing of who plays for the national championship is as false and as contrived a decision process as any of those other shows. But at least they others are forthright about it.
The “BCS Selection Show”—BCS being short for “Bowl Championship Series”—showed how College Football is more reminiscent of, say, professional boxing than amateur sports.
“Who’s the best? We don’t know,” said one of the announcers in the show. That, you see, is the problem. No one knows who’s the best, and it will not be decided on the field.
“USC’s the best,” said Johnnie Johnson.
“Oklahoma’s the best,” said Barry Switzer.
…and neither of those schools are playing in the National Championship game.
Ohio State, a team which played several sub-par teams and whose opponents comprise the weakest schedule of any of the top contenders, will be playing for the National Championship. LSU, the champion of one of the toughest conferences in America, is the other team. The champions of the other leagues have been arbitrarily eliminated from the process. By who? Well, by coaches, ex-coaches and computer geeks.
Arizona State will not be playing in one of the major bowls, despite the fact that they were co-champions of the Pac-10 Conference. Hawaii, which barely beat the last place team in the conference, will take their place. Big 12 division champ Missouri and Pac-10 co-champ Arizona State will both stay home while 3-loss Illinois, which didn’t win or tie for its conference, goes to the Rose Bowl. When it comes down to it, a bunch of college kids had their travel plans made for them not by what they achieved on the field, but by what voters did in polls, what computers spit out with various programming, and by what bowl game organizers will believe will make the most tourist dollars to their town. The fact that business is business is fine with me. But to masquerade it as an authentic sporting derby is a sham. And it should not be shown in prime-time television.
The college players have become something like modern-day gladiators, giving it all they’ve got on the field while the onlookers and those standing by figure out how to make a profit off of them. It’s not inspiring. It’s discouraging. It’s a shame. It’s a sham.
But it will make plenty of dollars for advertisers, for the networks, for the fortunate schools
which got selected…and for all of the bar-owners, sports bar franchises and sports television networks who’ll profit from this enterprise. It trains our most potentially high achieving young leaders to learn that corporate raiders, political forces and capital realities are more important than individual achievement. It’s dead wrong.
So congratulations to the kids from Kansas (even though they didn’t make their conference championship game), Georgia (even though they didn’t make their conference championship game), Hawaii (even though they didn’t play much of anybody tough) and Illinois (who didn’t win their conference) because they get to play in what the networks will call a big game and what their schools will call a Big Payday.
But as inspiring television goes, I’m going upstairs to watch a Project Runway rerun with my daughters. It’s actually more real than the sham I just watched.