No Pepper Games: Of Football and Founders
Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 7/2/2012 10:00am
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all college football teams are created equal (except mid-majors), that they are endowed by their Conferences with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Money, More Money and the pursuit of a National Championship.
Eleven score and sixteen years ago today, in a closed session, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution declaring the United States free from the tyrannical rule of King George III.
One week ago tomorrow, in a closed session, the college athletic commissioners adopted a resolution declaring college football free from the tyrannical labyrinth of the BCS. There will be a playoff. Four teams will decide the national championship on the field as the Good Lord intended.
The late John Adams sent a letter to his wife Abigail: "The second day of July, 1776... will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival... It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."
Mr. Adams was off by a couple of days. John Hancock didn't actually put his John Hancock on the document until the celebrated Fourth. It then took two centuries and a Civil War to figure out that "all men are created equal" included ALL men, women, and corporations. But it was a good start.
Likewise, the commissioners, in announcing that America would finally be free to know who her national champion is, left a few details out.
We know that a selection committee will choose the four participating teams. Who is on that committee and what their criteria will be is still to be determined. The committee has to invent a plausible justification for shutting out small schools from lesser conferences. These things take time.
We know that a college football playoff will generate half a billion dollars in broadcast revenue. How that money is to be divided is still to be determined. The committee will have to invent a plausible reason to keep the money in the hands of the powerhouse schools and away from the pretenders. These things take time.
In ye olden days, before jets and television, the bowl games were a big deal. Alumni shelled out to travel by rail to see their alma mater in exotic vacation destinations like Miami and California. There was big money to be had in the old system. Not surprisingly, the powers at the venerable old bowls have always been the biggest naysayers of a playoff.
There's so much money in the new system that the old bowls willingly and happily gave up control of their games. It's the difference between having 100% of your homemade pie, or a slice of a pie with a diameter from Pasadena to Pittsburgh.
Every high-minded objection to a playoff melted in the face of all that cash, like a snowflake landing on a sewage-treatment pool. Remember the oft-cited objection that scheduling extra games at the end of the year would interfere with the academic exams of the student-athlete?
What of the student-athlete? What of that noble creature who trains his mind by day and his physique at night? He who, unsullied by tawdry thoughts of finance, is free to contemplate Plato in his spare hours. How are we to protect him from the corrupting influence of all of those dollars?
These young men toil for free, making millions for their schools and the networks who broadcast them. Their jerseys sell in the bookstores. They move merchandise. They don't see a dime.
They do get scholarships to elite schools, but they spend their education performing a dangerous full-time job and make a lot of other people rich. The vast majority of them are not bound for the NFL. These young men on the gridiron do a dangerous job for our amusement and for the networks' enrichment. They're working for free. Two hundred years ago, they'd have been picking cotton. Now, they're picking off passes. It is time they were compensated.
College football is an anachronism. It long ago ceased to be a good-natured, leather-helmeted sporting jaunt between rival institutes of higher learning. It is a business. It is a reality show. It is the NFL's minor league.
I see the playoff announcement last week as the eventual death knell for the "amateur" college football player, just as that parchment signed long ago in Philadelphia was the eventual death knell for another sort of slavery.
Give the players a slice of the pie. Let freedom ring.