As folks around here know, I oppose a playoff for college football. The notion that it produces the “fairest” result is far from clear when. More to the point, though, there is no perfect way to determine a champion. March Madness isn’t perfect. Major League Baseball isn’t perfect. The pursuit of perfection, often in the form of allowing more and more teams into the playoff because the 9th team is arguably just as good as the 8th, merely pushes the can down the road.

This post isn’t about playoffs. This post is about what is often behind the push for playoffs. That pursuit of perfection. A fool’s errand, as often as not. The notion that any system is going to produce the perfect result, unsullied by a freak loss here or a bad call there.

Until relatively recently, I was opposed to instant replay of any form in football. The idea being, even the instant replay people aren’t going to get it right sometimes. The typical “incontrovertible evidence” standard means that the replay booth is left to decide between whether it really looked like the ref’s call was wrong, or whether it really, really looked like the ref’s call was wrong. And sometimes they get it wrong entirely. Sometimes a pivotal call is one that can’t be reviewed. Sometimes the call on the ground is so effed up that there is no right way to do it (a fumble is confused for a forward pass, a whistle blows the play dead and the live ball is picked up with an open field for a touchdown… how do you sort that one out?). There is, of course, more fair and less fair, but the delays and such didn’t seem worth it.

My mind changed as (at least at the college level) the reviews got a lot better and, most importantly, faster. Particularly in the first half of the season. There seemed to be some backsliding towards the end of the season. But the first half of the season, as well as last season (which is when my mind was changed), demonstrated that it’s possible to correct the obvious bad ones (of which there are many) without delaying the game. My main point, though, about sometimes just accepting the bad calls as a part of the game rather than a betrayal of the game, stands… in the abstract, at least.

While I was down in Colosse, I watched a Southern Tech basketball game against (who else?) Utica. I don’t watch basketball on all that regular a basis, but it was the worst officiating I believe I have ever seen. Of course, that’s one of the fundamental differences between basketball and football. In football, there are some bad calls (even with instant replay) and they can sometimes have a powerful impact on the game. You can debate it, discuss it, pick it apart. But basketball? It comes down to 100,000 ref calls throughout the game. And there can’t be anything like instant replay. And a whole lot of them are in gray areas and all of them are in realtime. In a lopsided game, there isn’t much the refs can do to affect the outcome, but if it is at all close, the best you can hope for is that the refs screw up equally.

And that’s okay. It, like at least some crummy officiating in football, is built into the game.

To get back to playoffs, when I think of March Madness, whatever problems I have with it from a fairness standpoint, I don’t think anything it does even remotely compares to the arbitrariness of the referees. A reason for me to prefer football, perhaps, though in the end it’s as much about the excitement of the games as it is about a true contest of superiority.

And that’s yet another reason why the LSU-Alabama rematch sucked.


Category: Downtown

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