Sunday, March 07, 2010

Unintentional Irony, Mike Lupica-style

So I was watching the Sports Reporters on the elliptical this morning and the opening segment was about the plans to expand the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams. Bob Ryan and Mike Lupica lit into the idea, complaining that it would ruin the "perfect sporting event" and that it would devalue the regular season. Ironically, these are the same two people who cannot discuss college football at any point in the season without moaning about the fact that there is no playoff. I found a few things about their wildly inconsistent worldviews to be amusing:

1. They complained that expansion of the Big Dance is driven by coaches (because of the pressure to get bids) and the combination of the NCAA and the networks (which want more product to sell). Unwittingly, they illustrated the best case against a college football playoff. (For the record, I'm in favor of a 4-8 team playoff, but I'd like a constitutional amendment capping the field at eight. I'd rather have the current system than a 16-team playoff.)

2. Which arguments that Ryan and Lupica made against expanding the tournament from 65 to 96 could not be made to contract the tournament to 32? Or to 16? (I would be a much bigger college basketball fan if the tournament were 16 teams.)

3. It was not an accident that the panel spent the whole first segment discussing the potential expansion of the Tournament, but there was no discussion of actual college basketball teams and games in 2010. That wouldn't be because the "perfect sporting event" has killed the regular season, would it? Lupica's contribution was to mispronounce "Louisville" (the "s" is silent, Mike) and to refer to a non-existent school named "Missouri Valley State" as the typical Cinderella. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the NCAA Tournament is loved by people like Lupica and Ryan who spend the most of their time catering to the pro-sports obsessions of their readers because it allows them to distill an entire season down to three weeks. It's a sports writer's path of least resistance.

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