Today’s edition is being typed on an air-gapped computer for your protection.
1. A Humble and Polite Request to QUIT YOUR BITCHING!
For years a good number of people who follow and claim to be obsessed with college football spent half of every autumn bitching about the BCS while throwing out irrelevant arguments such as the corruption of bowl committees (as if they ever had a thing to do with choosing the two teams that played for the national championship). Anyway, your author was of the idea that he did not want to see any new wrinkle that would compromise the college season from Labor Day through Thanksgiving and that he feared a four-team playoff was the equivalent to unbuttoning the top button on the blouse (or jeans) that would lead us to an 8- or (heavens!) 16-team playoff.
Well, guess what? We have a four-team playoff this year and I’m man enough to admit that I love it. And while I hope it remains at four, I think the significant lesson we can all learn in this Twitterverse, Hashtag, FOX News world is that it’s okay to concede that you have changed your mind, and that it does not mean all of your views are worthless or that you’re dumb enough to DVR Parenthood or anything like that.
I like the four-team playoff because, contrary to what I first worried about, it appears to enhance Sept-Nov. (what simpletons would refer to as “the regular season”) and it does nothing to douse the fuel of hypothetical cross-cultural arguments about who is better than whom when there is no actual empirical way to answer that. There is even more chaos now with very, very, very little lost in terms of how elite a team must be to contend for the championship.
I like it. There.
Of course, you cannot please everyone. So now Mike Mayock wants to see 16 teams. And there are others who want to see conference champions win automatic berths –because some people will never be happy until college football is every bit as boring and sterile as the NFL. No, people! What makes this fun is knowing that if you live in Tuscaloosa, you are competing against the people in Eugene or Norman. Even if you don’t play them.
Now, like I said, some people are never satisfied. You give then Notre Dame at Florida State and Arizona at Oregon and Arizona State at USC and Alabama at Ole Miss and TCU at Baylor and TCU at West Virginia and Auburn at Ole Miss and (have I made my point yet?) and they tweet you, “I also want games in December that are worth watching” while someone else tweets you, “I objected to those who thought playoff would solve everything. It doesn’t. It just brings new problems.”
To the first tweet, I am reminded of the Louis C.K. riff (4:55) about God looking at people who arrive at heaven with great expectations and saying, “That place you just left? Earth? It was pretty damn great. You people are never satisfied and honestly, you’re not worth My effort.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it.
You want December games worth watching? Maybe go put up a Christmas tree. Or go out and get some exercise. Or take a moment to think how lucky you are that THIS is what you are bitching about. I don’t mean to get all Sinead O’Connor on your ass –yes, every argument should be viewed within its own prism, not in the realm of “but look at all the starvation…” — but maybe to get “December games worth watching” we’d be giving up Sept., Oct. and Nov. games worth watching because there would no be as much at stake.
As to the second tweet, “solving everything” will never happen in sports. Nor should it. I’m reminded of the 2011 NFL season, when the 9-7 New York Giants made the playoffs but the 9-7 Tennessee Titans did not (the Giants won the Super Bowl). Or the 2010 NFL season, when the 10-6 Green Bay Packers made the playoffs but the 10-6 Giants did not (the Packers won the Super Bowl).
And yet no one ever seems to have a problem with these obvious flaws in the NFL’s system –not to mention the manner in which UConn men’s hoops has won two national titles in the past four years– because we are a nation of sports fans addicted to the “P” word: playoffs. As long as there’s a playoff, and as long as we include as many teams as logistically possible, people see this as more objective, and to hell with all the games that came before.
Which has never made an ounce of sense to me. So someone’s going to get all bent out of shape because there’s a chance that an 11-1 Baylor team will make the Football Final Four ahead of say, 10-2 Alabama (or 11-1 Mississippi State). But no one gets upset if the 9-7 Titans are omitted from the playoffs because the prevailing sense is, “Well, with that record, they obviously were not good enough to win the Super Bowl,” a belief that might have merit if not for the fact that in that very year another team with an identical record WON THE SUPER BOWL!!!
Okay, I’m at that point now where I’m like Kramer holding up his arm at Jerry and he’s fed up to here…
2. Are You SHAW You Want To Stick With This Story?
So ESPN broadcast a prime-time game between Cal and USC last night, and coincidentally a story penned by Bill Plaschke, who writes for the Los Angeles Times but probably pockets almost as much money annually from ESPN as an Around The Horn bloviator, appears in which USC safety-captain-heroic-tale-fabricator Josh Shaw breaks his silence and explains what really happened.
Oh, and nothing to see here concerning Mr. Plaschke’s connection to ESPN and the timing of this story. Please move on.
Read and judge the story for yourself. It’s closer to the truth in that there are no drowning nephews involved and there is a girlfriend and a leap from an apartment building. But it does not come across as Mr. Plaschke doing a very good job of being justifiably skeptical of a man who already has demonstrated, vividly, that he is capable of lying to your face.
As Andy Staples of SI tweeted, “The story Josh Shaw says is the real one is just about as bizarre as the fake one.”
3. Welcome Back, Taibbi
I don’t care how it happened and I don’t care why it happened (although I assume it went something like this: Rolling Stone: “How does it feel…to be on your own…a complete unknown…no direction home…like a…” Matt Taibbi: “Rolling Stone?”) I just know that my favorite pissed-off journo, Matt Taibbi, is back writing for Rolling Stone and exposing Wall Street vampire squids. #FridayNightReads
4. Legalized Gambling? You Bet!
Someone besides Cousin Sal (and most sports fans) is espousing the legalization of sports gambling. And that person is NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who argued in favor of it in an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. Sports gambling is like weed: everyone’s doing it anyway, so why not regulate it and let American businesses reap the profits.
What I would have loved is if Silver had written, “While I am in favor of legalizing wagering on NBA games, I do believe that Sixers games should be taken off the board for the time being.”
5. Ford Focus
So I’m pretty lucky to work with some people who are (a lot) smarter than I am. Now, do they have to seat these people right next to me so that each day is a reaffirmation in abject humiliation?
And yet, I love it when Alex Nazaryan pretends to be amused or intrigued by a thought of mine, as if he isn’t Will Hunting looking at Stellen Skarsgard and asking, “Do you realize how easy this is for me?!?” (Alex, our resident polymath, did one story on Kevin Love last year and it was as good as any sports piece I’ve read all year).
Anyway, here is Alex’s profile of his favorite author not-named-Philip Roth, Richard Ford (who, incidentally, once wrote a classic work of modern American tragic fiction titled The Sportswriter).
The Tallahassee Police are at it again. Thanks to the New York Times for being the booth review of every moment of their corruption. As i tweeted, sometimes I wonder if FSU’s players and the TPD are doing all of this just so that their “30 for 30” will be as good as “The U.”
What’s worse: Blowing a 27-point lead to lose the game or losing it like this? Kind of fun to watch the 2-man game Courtney Lee and Marc Gasol played to get Lee open.
Where in the World
Yesterday: Shiprock, New Mexico
Five Easy Pieces
TCM 10 p.m.
I realize I go a little heavy on TCM in this space, but unless there’s a marvelous sports event airing, I’d much rather watch some classic cinema. This 1970 film has Jack Nicholson and the most famous scene in the history of diner-server contretemps.