Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Time To Cower, BCS; Rick Reilly Is On Your Case!

I implore you to read Rick Reilly's complaint about the BCS.  If you are wondering how it is that Rick Neuheisel got a head coaching gig at UCLA after bombing out at Colorado and Washington (with NCAA sanctions, to boot) or Greg Robinson got the defensive coordinator job at Michigan after disastrous spells with the Kansas City Chiefs and Syracuse, just look at their magnificent coifs.  Imagine a middle-aged decision-maker who drives a Lexus, listens to Jimmy Buffett to unwind, spends way too much time futzing with his investments, and views golf as a sport.  That guy is just going to look at Neuheisel or Robinson and say "that guy looks like a coach," in the same way that the Oakland A's scouts said "that guy looks like a player" in Moneyball.  That guy is also going to click on the front page of ESPN.com and say to himself "awesome, a new column by Rick Reilly!  He just looks so friendly and unthreatening!  I'm in the mood for a bunch of dumb one-liners that would be beneath Jay Leno!  And I don't like data or cogent, orderly arguments in my sportswriting.  Explain the world of sports to me, Rick!"

How else can one explain ESPN giving prominent space to a column that contains the following gems:

  • Reilly complains about the fact that there could be six unbeaten teams by the end of the college football season, as if all six were likely to run their respective tables.  As if to show how ludicrously short-sighted his argument was, Oklahoma and Wisconsin lost on Saturday night, cutting Reilly's nightmare scenario down before the column had been up for 48 hours.

  • Reilly argues against an imaginary strawman, namely that an unbeaten Oklahoma or Oklahoma State would be jumped by the one-loss loser of the Alabama-LSU game.  Rick, now that you are writing on the Internet, you might be expected to learn about the concept of a hyperlink.  If you are going to argue against a proposition, then you might want to link to someone making that argument.  Or at least give us a name?  Is that too much to ask?  It seems relevant when you are arguing against an all-SEC BCS Championship Game, an event that has never occurred and in fact has never come close to occurring.

  • How about this gem:
True, trying to win a national championship by beating Big Ten teams is like trying to get drunk drinking non-alcoholic beer, but what do you want them to do? They can only play their schedule and they've fricaseed every team they've played, 301-58. It's enough to make a Wisconsin fan hurl his lunch, which would be known as Bielemia.

What do we want Wisconsin to do?  Oh, I don't know, maybe play a non-conference road game against a team more threatening than UNLV, Fresno State, or Hawaii?  Rick, if you knew anything about college football other than the fact that it provides you with fodder for an annual complaint about the BCS, then you would know that programs get to pick their non-conference schedules.  A program like Wisconsin that has a large home stadium and supportive fan base has near-total latitude in making scheduling decisions.  Wisconsin doesn't just play their schedule; they make 33% of their schedule.  So yes, I want Wisconsin to start acting like the college football power that they pretend to be. 
  • Reilly complains about the computers not showing any love to Stanford.  You want to know why the computer rankings are so bad, Rick?  Because the BCS kow-towed to bitchy columnists after Nebraska pipped Colorado and Oregon for the right to get slaughtered by Miami in the 2001 national title game on the basis of margin-of-victory.  You want to take a wild guess what position Reilly, a Colorado alum who hates Nebraska, would have taken at that time?  I am going out on a limb and say that Reilly wasn't motivated by a rigorous commitment to empiricism and math.  Also, Reilly complains about Stanford's low computer ranking and then cites their schedule going forward.  You know, the part of the schedule for which the computers are not yet accounting.

  • I can't believe that Reilly gets paid to write sentences like this gem about Boise State: "And yet every time they play a big-conference school they tend to win, including Georgia this year and TCU coming up."  He's unintentionally paraphrasing Brian Fantana: 60% of the time, they win every time.  And that's before we get to the fact that TCU isn't yet a big conference school. 

  • Reilly also got paid to write this: "If the [Clemson] Tigers go undefeated, they'll have beaten everybody but the Chinese army -- Auburn, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Florida State and South Carolina."  Boston College?  Are you too f***ing busy to click on the ACC standings and notice that Boston College is 1-6?  Would you prefer to cite the Packers' accomplishment in going unbeaten against a schedule that has included the winless Rams?  Or, since you seem to like shallow geopolitical analogies, maybe you should tout our armed forces' triumph over Grenada? 
Rick, if you feel like college football is crucifying you, then might I suggest you find another religion?  The CIMB Asia Pacific Classic is ready when you are.


Jack said...

Maybe I'm remembering it wrong, but wasn't the bigger outcry and corresponding adjustment to the BCS formula when USC didn't make the title game despite being #1 in both human polls in 2003? I feel like there was bigger "we gotta get these computers out of the formula" sentiment then...

Michael said...

Not that Reilly knows this, but he is complaining about the rule against using margin-of-victory in the computer rankings. That came out of the 2001 season. It was also an issue in 2000 because MOV helped FSU go past Washington and Miami. 2003 was simply a case of the humans deciding that they were better than the computers (and in that case, they were because they were able to account for the fact that Oklahoma was weakened by Jason White's injury, although the human voters were also underrating LSU that year).

Anonymous said...

This column was both devastating & hilarious, although to be fair Reilly is something of a sitting duck

Michael said...

What do you want me to do, fisk Chris Brown? Terence Moore isn't around anymore and Mandel isn't writing dumb things, so I am running out of low-hanging fruit.