Thursday, October 27, 2005
PERPETUATING THE MYTH
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He never actually mentions the word, but arguments for a playoff don't get much better than this established but nonetheless insightful and well-reasoned post from the Corporate Headquarters of the San Antonio Gunslingers:In mass media journalism, there is a greater reliance on profit than in the past. And when profit matters more, the corporate heads want to ensure that the journalists stay within bounds - whatever stories are covered need to be more predictable, so the accountants and such know what they can expect. Things are planned out in advance. Storylines are decided upon weeks ahead of time. It's a matter of certainty.Yes, of course. The lopsided influence of media hype has always been an issue, especially on the West Coast. It plays a major role in the national title picture, even more in the Heisman race. How much this actually helps obtain money from knowledgeable, fair-minded fans is debatable - the media does what it thinks will be profitable, but this so often includes such incredibly bad decisions as Ashlee Simpson halftime shows or "Quite Frankly" or Jason White/Eric Crouch hype that we can conclude it usually is clueless about what fans actually want - but that it shamelessly stumps for Yankees, Red Sox, Patriots, Irish, Trojans, Lakers and other faves is not.
And in the college football journalism world, certainty matters too. As early as the Spring, storylines are developed and plans are set in motion. Gameday knew probably back in January that the Ohio State-Texas game would be a huge matchup, so ESPN started hyping it a month ahead of time. ESPN decided USC would be a big story, so they've had Shelley Smith preparing in depth stories for months.
The key is that they decide upon the story ahead of time, so when something comes up that doesn't fit the parameters of that story, they don't know what to do.
A prime example was Auburn last year. Preseason, Auburn was way off the radar. They were an underachieving team that just didn't perform. No buzz whatsoever. Of course, they did have every important player returning and an easy schedule, but they just weren't part of the narrative going into the year. Last year's narrative was about USC, Oklahoma or Texas and in the SEC, Georgia. Auburn wasn't part of the narrative. So when they kept winning, people didn't really know what to do with them. The story had been decided already, and that was that USC and Oklahoma were the best two teams.
The truth of the matter is that nobody knows anything until the games are played and it's settled on the field. But that brings spontaneity into the equation, and that isn't something major corporations can allow for. It's a whole lot easier and cheaper to just keep Steve Cyphers in South Bend and have him file stories about Notre Dame than it would be to have him flying all over the country covering teams that have surprised people.
So there has to be a narrative and we have to stick with it.
CHSGS continues with actual point-by-point debate of a nasty homo MSM discussion from Sunday's round of genius pontification on that McLaughling Group of sports, "The Sports Reporters" (which would be watchable if Dana Carvey's John McLaughlin moderated, or even Phil Hartman's Sinatra), concluding with this:Why are Texas and USC the best Rose Bowl teams? The horse, the drum, excitement. Alabama and Virginia Tech cannot provide that (let alone Georgia or UCLA). The national media has a story in their mind and they will promote that story no matter what. They want the story they've already written. They want the game they've already mapped out. Never mind that each team has 5 more games to play. Never mind what the other undefeated teams have done already, or might do. They have a narrative, and they want to see how the book in their own heads ends. Period. Ryan is dead right, and dangerously honest.Not SMQ either! Nor anyone else not to chained to the investment in the contrived system.
Let's face it. The matchups that decide the national title are decided upon in production meetings months ahead of time. The teams that make the sexiest title game are discussed between writers and editors in August.
That's how you want to decide a champion? Not me.
John Saunders, specifically fingered (shut up) by CHSGS as a corporate shill, has long been the point of similar SMQ skepticism as an egregious company man, for there is no other excuse for anyone younger than Beano Cook (which is everyone) to support a bowl system in light of a clearly more entertaining, clearly more just, clearly more profitable playoff format. Saunders does so in one fashion or another on a weekly basis, usually with the ridiculous "We already have a playoff - the regular season" schtick, which may be as thick a smoke screen as the BCS backers can muster.
It’s exactly ABC's - and, to a lesser extent, ESPN's - insistence on the Blah Championship Series' bogus officiality that leads many to believe that this media concoction’s proceedings represent THE national championship, like the one awarded at the end of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, or the I-AA football tournament, or at the end of every single other major team sport championship on all levels in America. Many fans believe this, too.
For example, an LSU graduate co-worker of SMQ's from Baton Rouge insisted recently that USC was "jealous" of LSU’s 2003 championship, and didn't understand at all when SMQ insisted both teams had won championships, as they should have under the crappy system, because USC's AP poll title was every bit as valid as LSU's coerced Coach’s Poll victory and BCS trophy - which is just that and no more, the BCS Trophy, not, as she thought, The Official Do Not Dispute National Championship Trophy. That big crystal ball is indistinguishable, in effect, from the Tigers' Sugar Bowl Trophy, or USC’s Orange Bowl Trophy, or this year’s Rose Bowl Trophy; the Blog Poll Championship, though recognized by fewer people, would be as valid. The Home Depot Trophy (the name tells you what you need to know) is an award for winning one big game.
The truth is, the BCS title is as mythical as any other forged of the chaos and disrepute that preceded it, because it still relies on polls. The Bowl Championship Series names its champion from a single manufactured game, and forces the coaches to follow it in order to secure poll legitimacy; the AP, as it always has, names its own champ. In no other team sport anywhere are polls remotely significant. The only force of legitimacy the BCS has behind it is its massive media machine (also true of the polls).
On Monday Night Football this week, though he graduated after the 2003 season, New York Jets linebacker Mark Brown announced himself and his alma mater on the opening credits as "Mark Brown, 2004 National Champion Auburn Tigers." SMQ was delighted, because a) He stuck it to the BCS right on ABC, and b) Mark Brown’s National Championship has every bit as much validity as anyone else’s at this point. SMQ himself said last year Auburn - and Utah, for that matter - should just call itself the champion and buy rings (Auburn actually did). What's the difference? Aside from the number of people who recognize it, nothing. And there won't be a difference until there's a format for actually winning a championship on the field that can't be voted away.
CHSGS post courtesy of EDSBS.
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