Friday, June 29, 2012

BCS playoffs: a big deal about nothing

Groucho: “Why this report is so simple, a 4-year-old child could understand it! (Turns to Chico) Quick, find me a 4-year-old; I can’t make heads or tails of it.”

From the Marx Brothers 1934’s “Duck Soup”

After all the hemming and hawing, the handwringing, the verbal diatribe and the lobbying of philosophical hand grenades, the best and brightest minds in collegiate athletics announced the following system to determine – once for all – an UNDISPUTED national football champion for Division 1/BCS schools.
A committee will pick four teams and three games will then determine who will be crowned top dog. So what was the big deal? Any child over 3 could have figured THAT out.
While the average college football fan thinks it’s better than what is in place today, I’m not sure it’s satisfactory as a fan meal. The college football nation wanted to see MORE teams involved (at least eight, as many as 16). Yes, the public wanted an NBA-style/Stanley Cup playoff series because … people LIKE that format to determine the best team.
This is where logic was conflicting with the real motivating force in college football – MONEY! A 16-team format would have meant the following alternations would be forced – smaller schedules ending earlier than current calendars, the elimination of conference championships in order to restore the relevance of regular season games and uniform start and finish dates for team schedules.
And to quote another Marx Brother, Chico Marx, “And that runs into money.”
Despite the platitudes tossed out by campus presidents, each one knows what makes the Merry-Go-Round – long green, dead presidents, moolah. And anything that interferes with a school’s cash register gets a big frown and thumbs down.
It’s why the post-season system of dozens of meaningless bowl games survives. The public is inflicted with the Meineke Muffler Bowl and Papa John’s Bowl and the other toilet bowls is how each contributes to the river of loot going to various conferences and schools. Truly, NO one really wants to see the scintillating matchup between the seventh-best team in the Big 10 and the sixth-best squad in the Pac-12 when chances are each school is hovering at .500.
But after years of putting cotton in their ears to snuff out the voices advocating for the same kind of limited playoff format employed on all other levels of NCAA competition for football, a summit was held last week and BINGO!, we’ve got a playoff (albeit limited) system.
Granted, the system will be stacked in favor of certain conferences (not the Big 10 by the way), and the criteria for choosing which four teams should be involved is more than a tad hazy. The venues will be selected by the most American of all processes – money and who is willing to gives the most to the BCS.
Here’s a safe prediction: the first championship game will be held in Arlington, Texas at Jerry Jones’ Cowboys Stadium because … he wishes it to be so. He will NOT be outbid just like J.R. Ewing will not be double-crossed on an oil deal – not without consequences. And network participation will follow the same path – just follow the greenback brick road.
Sadly, the billions about to be made by the BCS won’t go to where it’s needed the most – the non-football athletic programs, facing forced elimination by athletic departments for … a lack of a small portion of those billions about to change hands. It would be too magnanimous of a gesture by the BCS ADs and college presidents to support other collegiate athletes who work just as hard, but don’t get the same financial support from ticketholders or television networks.
So the 4-year-old’s plan will have to suffice for now … actually for the next 14 years (an odd number of years to be sure). Because, as Chico said, that, too, “runs into money.”
It brings me to last week’s announcement concerning Michigan non-conference games from 2014-16 – which should have spoken to the seriousness of the school’s mission to be crowned as national champion!
The biggest news was not who Michigan would be playing in those schedules, it was who it would NOT be playing after that … at least for a couple of years. I wrote a year ago that a true rivalry could not be fostered one a hit-and-miss basis. That’s why Notre Dame is NOT a rival on the same level of Ohio and Michigan State; a school MUST be faced every season (home-and-home) to be a TRUE rival.
A two-year break between the schools was announced for 2018 and 2019, yet no reason was disclosed. If it’s a guaranteed sell-out and national event, why go to neutral corners for two years?
No opponents were named for those two seasons, simply who would not be on the schedule. Instead U-M fans will see more of the same – a few decent teams (Utah) and a few less-than-formidable opponents, in preparation for the Big 10 season (always Michigan’s number one priority).
On Aug. 30, 2014, the Ghost of Upsets Past returns to Ann Arbor – Appalachian State followed by a road trip to South Bend. Then there are home games with Miami (Ohio) and Utah. Michigan returns to favor to the Utes on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015 to (literally) start that national football season.
Then there are three straight Big House affairs against Notre Dame, Oregon State and UNLV.
There remain two holes in the 2016 schedule on Sept. 3 and Sept. 24, sandwiching a road trip to Notre Dame and home game versus Colorado.
Then Notre Dame will disappear for two seasons (2018-19) but, according to the U-M press release, “Both schools intend to resume the rivalry in the years following.
Of course, it depends on whether Notre Dame is still an independent, not on the death penalty or hasn’t dropped to non-scholarship Division 3 level. You’re laughing? It could happen.
After all, the Supreme Court ruled Obamacare as constitutional so ANYTHING can happen.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gotta love them Texas Republicans

Just when the temperatures start on the incline toward suppression, and the muscles around the mouth start dropping downward, up steps my favorite source of sustained humor – Republicans! Here in Texas, we possess a particular hilarious group of GOPers who are dying to move the state and all people back to the 50s – when Rock Hudson (not yet gay enough) ruled the land in”Giant.” It was a time when whites dominated, blacks and Hispanics had NO rights whatsoever and Texas A&M had no women in its ranks!
According to Christy Hoppe, of the Dallas Morning News, is the paper’s Trail Blazer blog (one of the few things free to the public), the following items compose much of the Texas Republican Party’s platform for 2012, after adoption at the GOP convention in Fort Worth. Actually, according to video and reporting, it was an old, white person Tea Party gathering, complete with booing of the Governor (Rick Perry) for supporting David Dewhurst to be U.S. Senator, and for not backing Tea Party darling Ted Cruz (former Texas Secretary of State, meaning he hasn’t run for anything in his life).
These people don’t want to support anything deemed progressive or which requires spending one cent of their precious money (except when THEY directly benefit from that outlay). If left to their own devices, poor people would disappear from their sight, no one would pay any taxes but all public services would have to be provided (like police, ambulance and fire … but without actually paying them).
They are dying to tell OTHERS what to do and how to lie but don’t you dare apply the same standard to them – after all, they are Uh-MARR-i-kins!
Here’s what the 22-page Texas GOP platform includes:
Opposition to homosexuality, gay rights and multi-cultural studies (white history only)
Denial of public schooling to children of illegal immigrants (white education only)
Defense of the borders (Is Canada about to attack?)
Issuance of drivers licenses denoting citizenship (crossover into federal authority and implementation of a national ID … just like old EUROPE)
Actually seek a temporary worker program (making illegals semi-legal if no Americans will do certain work with NO penalties whatsoever to employers of undocumented workers)
Make the Republican majority in the State House of Representatives meet and, by secret vote, select one of their (Tea Party) own and then force all members to vote for whomever is selected (you know, democracy at work)
Condemnation of the Trans-Texas Corridor initiative (of course, it’s a dead horse but go ahead and beat it some more)
The state Education Commissioner should be selected by the elected State Board of Education instead of the governor (There’s another “Oops” directed toward Perry)
No new taxes (of any kind for any reason - cut taxes while spending more money on wars fought by someone else - not the Tea Party)
Capping state spending based on a population-plus-inflation formula (funny, the population has grown by large double figures in the past decade or so, but inflation doesn’t really exist)
Cutting more than last session’s $5 billion to public schools and higher education – at all levels (because the Tea Party doesn’t care about future generations and how ignorant they are in the basics; hell, being 28th in the world in math and science is just fine to these old peckerwoods)
Term limits for elected officials (except for the old farts the Tea Party keeps electing over and over and over – such as 80-year-old Sam Johnson from Plano who should be in a retirement home by now, not as Congressman in D.C.)
Repeal of the federal Voting Rights Act (no more voting rights for minorities)
Disbanding the Transportation Safety Administration, leaving airport security to local and state law enforcement (because Barney Fife will protect us from terrorists, right?)
Labeling of all products containing genetically-modified organisms (such as “shit for brains?”)
Phasing out Social Security to private pension accounts (because those banks are SO DAMN reliable with our money)
The right to refuse any immunizations (because we certainly enjoyed having diseases like small pox, polio, diphtheria and others conquered maladies around to endanger all of us)
Repeal of the state Dream Act (slap in the face of ex-President George W., this was HIS baby)
Emphasize that evolution and global warming should be challenged as scientific theories (again, let’s substitute fact with fiction, theory with superstition, speaking from knowledge with talking in tongues)
Oppose mandatory kindergarten (Tea Partiers don’t have children that age so what do they care?)
Abolish the IRS to be replaced with national sales tax (Yadda-yadda-yadda, turn the page)
Get out of the United Nations (calling John Birch!)
Denial of domestic partnership benefits (probably with the lone exception for Tea Partiers who do the exact same thing as same-sex partners for the exact same reasons)
Make it legal for businesses to discriminate against gay employees or customers (because gay people are the new African-Americans from the 1950s; of course, a lot of businesses would lose a lot of business)
Eliminate prohibitions on corporal discipline for schools and foster parents (sure, let’s beat the hell out of children, even if it borders on criminal assault and attempted murder).
My guess is the national Republicans will employ many of these jokes into their platforms in a few months over in Tampa. And Mitt Romney will support all of them while trying at the same time to deny knowing what’s IN his party’s platform. Doesn’t matter anyway, he’ll just buy his way out of it, or lie his way out of it.
Oh, boy, more humor on its way!

Monday, June 04, 2012

American TV public: Voyeurs of danger

I remain unsettled about how voyeuristic we’ve become as the modern American society; just how much, and enthusiastically, all of us desire to see other people put themselves in harm’s way.
It’s just a continuation of the wise old truism that the worst traffic jam occurs on the OTHER side of a highway wreck – due to people stopping to see what carnage has been wrought upon others. We just love to see bad things happen to others, or at least potentially.
When people watch NASCAR, or the Indianapolis 500, it’s not to watch an endless procession of toy model cars go round and round and round for what seems to be an eternity. Besides, unless you actually know, very few can point to the person in the race lead (without a chart or scoreboard as an aide).
However, all eyes, ears and senses immediately spring into action what tires screech, metal crumbles and danger exists during any crash. It IS the singular thrill of the moment that gets our adrenalin running and makes the event “memorable.”
On Friday, Sept. 15, ABC television will broadcast one of its summertime “reality” specials when one man will put his life in complete danger (of losing it), by tightrope-walking across Niagara Falls, one of this country’s (shared with Canada) most beautiful (and dangerous) wonders. And it just isn’t ANY man – he is a Wallenda, which used to be the first family of circus performers back when I was a child.
ABC will air a three-hour special devoted to this daredevil attempt and my question is “Why?” Why three hours? Why this man? Why show it at all?
Nik Wallenda is a seventh-generation member of the circus troupe that has its roots dating back to 1780. The family act was known as the Flying Wallendas and its most famous member, Nik’s great-grandfather Karl Wallenda, fell to his death in 1978 (at age 73) during a tightrope stunt in Puerto Rico.
Anyone of my generation, growing up in Detroit during the 1960s knows all too sadly of the direct Motor City connection with the Wallendas. Long before Karl Wallenda’s tragic fall, it had happened before a full house at the old State Fair Coliseum on the Fairgrounds at Woodward and 8 Mile.
The year was 1962 and the Shrine Circus was in town. The Wallendas were the specials tars of the show and were performing their specialized seven-member chair pyramid – one of the most famous of all circus stunts. And it was performed without a safety net below.
Sadly, as a stunned audience watched in horror, the front man faltered and the pyramid collapsed, sending bodies flying everywhere. Three male members of the Wallendas crashed to the Coliseum floor. Karl Wallenda’s son-in-law, Richard Faughnan, and nephew, Dieter Schepp, were killed. His adopted son, Mario, was paralyzed from the waist down from his injuries and Wallenda himself hurt his pelvis.
No one who was there would ever forget it and the news coverage of the tragedy seemed endless, even decades before 24/7 cable outlets dominated the airwaves.
It would not be the only tragedies to befall the family. Wallenda’s sister-in-law, Rietta, fell to her death one year later, and another son-in-law Richard “Chico” Guzman died in 1972 when he accidentally touched a live electric wire while grasping part of the metal rigging.
You’d think it would be seen as a sign, from above, to stop! But Wallenda adhered to the philosophy of “Because it is circus,” and remained an active performer until his death. That’s a great philosophy for some, but there are just some things that should not be tempted. Mount Everest is still littered with the remains of brave souls who thought their lives were incomplete without defying death in some form or fashion.
     Me? I take my life into my hands every time I drive on the freeway; that’s all the excitement I can stand for a multiple amount of lifetimes.
Sorry, but I will not be watching come June 15; there must be a baseball game or an Animal Planet nature special or an informercial to garner my attention. I don’t really want to see someone fall to their death when it is completely unnecessary.
Yet the show will probably draws millions of viewers – the same ones who think it’s funny to see people knocked into muddy pools of water by giant balls, or humiliate themselves in public, all chasing some monetary prize. After all, this is a nation of savant voyeurs; a country of Chauncey Gardiners (from the novel/movie “Being There”), whose favorite line was “I like to watch.”