Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Time to Whine (again)

Every year around this time, my friends and I pick up where we left off last January--fighting about the bowls. No, it's not the battle for the leftover icing bowl, cookie dough bowl, or cake batter bowl. I'm talking about the college football bowl games, the Bowl Championship Series, the biggest joke of the sporting universe.
Aren't we past the question of, "Why does the BCS exist?" It doesn't even matter why it exists. What matters is the fact that college football fans DO NOT like it. Go ahead, do a poll. If you can find a fan of the BCS who is a fan of football, have him give me a call. I'd love to know what benefit he thinks it has to fans or teams.
March is the best sports month of the year because of the college basketball tournament. If Americans are so involved with March Madness that CSTV had to come up with a fake spreadsheet to cover their online game broadcasts, why does football not get such treatment? I just don't get it. I went to a school (Utah State University) that switched conferences admittedly to get more money from the football games. If basketball brought in all the money, I would understand why you would want to give it the tournament and the special name, but it doesn't. Football brings in the most money of any collegiate sport. That is why schools like USU keep it around. Honestly! Why else would schools that have their first snow in October keep sponsoring a sport that carries into January? It's all about the Benjamins.
The title of this post links to an article by Dan Wetzel. He becomes the millionth writer to propose a solution to the tournament-less world of college football. He is the first I've read who convinces me why it is possible to eliminate the bowls from the tournament scenario while still letting them exist, benefit the schools (monetarily), let the fans see their teams without traveling all over the country every week, and end the year with A champion.
Last year, I worked a scenario that allowed the bowls to be the homes of the tournament themselves, but it did lead to a lot of travel every single week. While the basketball teams (with twelve players on a roster) can do it for their tournament, it is a bit more difficult for football teams (with more than one hundred players on a roster) to do the same thing. Add to that the fact that you have a potential group of thirty thousand fans needing to travel for football instead of five to ten thousand for basketball, and you can see how this could be a problem. Besides, I like Wetzel's idea of giving teams a couple more home games.
Just like in basketball, I like the thought of my Aggies having the chance to play in a tournament if they win their conference. I like the fact that the Utes under Urban Meyer would have had a chance to prove themselves. I like that this year's Hawaii team wouldn't be snubbed for being from a small conference or having a poor strength of schedule. They win the conference, they play in the tourney. I like that Kansas has to prove itself for the same reason--poor strength of schedule. If you are good, prove it in the tournament. There is no less importance put on the regular season. There are only sixteen teams, so you don't have six bids from the ACC like in March Madness. I love a Final Four that gets played in four cities. What is there not to like about all of this?
While college basketball will always be my favorite, football fans should be screaming for something like this to come about.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Not Forgotten

One of the most memorable moments of my college life came on this day four years ago as a memorial was dedicated for veterans of the United States of America. Two things make that day stick out in my mind. One is a veteran who recited the poem, "In Flanders Fields" by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (actually from the Canadian Army). It was touching to watch these veterans with their silver hair covered by 50-year-old military hats and tears welling in their eyes as they listened to the words of that poem. The second thing that stands out was another veteran of World War II who sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" a capella without missing a note or a word. While we hear this tune at every sporting event from high school football to the Super Bowl, you can't compare those versions to the one I heard that day. It was a version sung with conviction and understanding of what Francis Scott Key was feeling as he penned the words to the United States' national anthem. That veteran did something you will not likely ever see at a sporting event, though. He sang all three verses to the hymn. The crowd of veterans and their families stood. No one coughed, no one sneezed. Many saluted, and a few shed tears. Certainly, there was a special feeling being there with those veterans that day. To them, I give humble thanks on this Veterans' Day. Thank you to all veterans of the past two-and-a-half centuries who have defended the land I call home.

Think on the words of those two works as you go about your business today. Remember, the first verse of the anthem is a question, and the answer is found in the second, a prayer of hope is the third.

In Flanders Fields, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The Star-Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key
Oh say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen thru the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust!"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!