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Sports Dilemma: Siding With Politicians On Playoffs
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Sports Dilemma: Siding With Politicians On Playoffs

Sports Dilemma: Siding With Politicians On Playoffs

Sports Dilemma: Siding With Politicians On Playoffs
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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/98336093/98369783" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Quarterbacks Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Tim Tebow of Florida will meet in this year's title game. i

Quarterbacks Sam Bradford of Oklahoma (left) and Tim Tebow of Florida will meet in this year's title game. That leaves no room for Texas, which beat Oklahoma earlier this season. Jamie Squire/Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Jamie Squire/Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Quarterbacks Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Tim Tebow of Florida will meet in this year's title game.

Quarterbacks Sam Bradford of Oklahoma (left) and Tim Tebow of Florida will meet in this year's title game. That leaves no room for Texas, which beat Oklahoma earlier this season.

Jamie Squire/Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sometimes life is just so conflicting that you don't know, as we used to say around my neighborhood, whether to spit or wind your watch.

Here's the dilemma. There is no more idiotic situation in the whole history of sport than the way college football manipulates its national championship. But at the same time, all sorts of politicians — even the president-elect — are agitating that the system must be changed to conform with the natural way champions are chosen the world over.

My head is spinning. Of course, I agree with the politicians, but it is an article of my faith that you just can't have politicians monkeying around with sports.

You know how ridiculous these guys are. If, for example, the Baltimore Ravens play the Kansas City Chiefs, the two mayors or governors or whatever rush to the spotlight and bet a bushel of crabs against a side of beef. No, you just don't want these dubious types of individuals infecting games.

This time, however, this humble private citizen is getting in bed with the self-proclaimed "public servants." The college football playoff is just too cockeyed. Take the politicians and give the points.

You probably already know the problem. In every other NCAA sport, the national champion is determined by playoffs. But not in the single most important college sport: Division I football. No, here only two teams are chosen by some combination of polls, computers and the phases of the moon.

As a wag on the Internet revealed recently, if the college football people had run World War II, then Japan and Germany would have won and the United States would have come in fourth.

After all, the Axis had a tougher strength of schedule. Agreed. We would have lost points for beating the Italian army — but not running up the score and razing Rome.

The defenders of the current system are so smug. They may be out of step with fair competition everywhere, but they love to profess that only in their Division I college football does the regular season matter.

Of course, it's the opposite. Southern California, for example, got upset early in the season, and that pretty much meant that the Trojans were finished dreaming big for the whole year. Obviously, having playoffs makes the regular season matter more.

The college football pooh-bahs also prattle on about how a playoff would ruin the bowl system. Of course it wouldn't.

The big bowls would be used for the playoffs, making them more popular, and the dopey little bowls could still invite ordinary teams to come and fill up a Thursday afternoon spot on ESPN.

As Charlie Weis, the befuddled coach at Notre Dame, explained in a moment of clarity after his Irish team ended the season a hapless 6-6, sure he'd go to a bowl, because then he could practice for two more weeks. So, off to Honolulu, Cholly.

Cynical? The college presidents who back the current arrangement love to whine that playoffs would keep the boys out of classes, while the truth, of course, is that the system now in place only assures more coaches that their student-athletes will continue to practice — and have the emphasis on the latter.

Of course, if Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich also comes out in favor of changing the system, then I may have to rethink my position.

Commentator Frank Deford joins us from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Conn.

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