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Are You Not Entertained?

by Sal Moriarty

Even casual college football fans seem to be aware of the brouhaha surrounding the College Football Playoff and the snubbing of the Florida State Seminoles. The team finished the season 13 – 0 and as champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) yet were not selected for the four team playoff to determine a national champion in college football. Instead, two one loss teams – Texas and Alabama – were chosen ahead of them.

The controversy stems primarily from Alabama being chosen instead of FSU. Texas beat Alabama in the regular season and had a leg up on the Crimson Tide. So, it came down to the unbeaten Seminoles and once-beaten Southeastern Conference (SEC) champion Tide for the final spot.

In short, the committee that selected the teams for the playoff indicated FSU was omitted because, some weeks earlier, their star quarterback was lost for the year to injury.  According to committee rules, they were allowed to factor this into their selection decision.  Would FSU be competitive against the best teams in the nation with a second (or even third) string quarterback? The committee said no, and FSU was left out of the playoff.

Predictably, all – uh – heck broke loose.

Could FSU beat Alabama in a game to determine who deserves the playoff spot?  With a backup quarterback?  Possibly.  Are the Crimson Tide good enough to win it all? History suggests, in a big way, yes.

So, it would seem for those with no dog in the fight, there are coherent arguments on both sides. This being America, of course, conspiracy theories came fast and furious. First one I heard was ESPN rigged the selection because they have a big TV deal pending with the SEC (Alabama's conference). The problem is ESPN has a TV deal with the ACC (Florida State's conference).  They're ESPN.  They have TV deals with everybody.

Another conspiracy theory is the selection committee wanted to punish the number one seed, Michigan, in the four team tourney by making them play Alabama. The story goes – because Michigan was caught up in a cheating scandal this season – Alabama would be more likely to beat Michigan than Florida State. This, I guess, would teach Michigan a lesson?

All the conspiracies ignore the fact the guy who chaired the selection committee is the athletic director at North Carolina State, who play in the same conference as FSU (ACC). One would assume he would like to see a team from his own conference in the playoff. Right?

Can you make the case that FSU would not be very competitive in the playoffs with a backup quarterback? Their win in the ACC championship game over a not-so-great Louisville team was not very impressive. How would it go against Michigan? Or Texas? Or, yes, Alabama. Might be ugly. That's a perfectly logical point of view.

That said, did they go undefeated in one of the Power Five conferences (conferences with the most money) and win their conference championship? They did indeed. Did they do everything asked of them during the season? Yep. Might they surprise everyone – even with a backup quarterback – if they were in the playoff? They might. That's a perfectly sensible point of view.

You have two reasonable arguments and the committee had to come down on one side or the other.  So, why the hue and cry from folks with no skin in the game?  In my opinion, the answer has little to do with sports.


To me, it's the fact a large segment of the population – perhaps the majority – lack the capacity to evaluate two sides of an argument rationally, get riled up far too easily (thanks social media and twenty-four-hour news) and, more to the point, hate ambiguity. The average American wants all answers to be simple. If conspiracy theories have to be thrown into the mix in order to land on a predetermined simplistic idea of good guys and bad guys, sobeit.  Americans love a boogeyman.  

The reality, of course, is two opposing sides can have reasonable and convincing arguments and sometimes the answer is unclear.  This is about football for crying-out-loud, not cancer research.  Sometimes there is no right answer. Simpletons hate that.

On a related note, not long after the college playoff field was announced, I was watching a discussion of the events on one of the innumerable sports talk shows (there's half an hour of my life I'll never get back). One intellectually/morally challenged talking head exclaimed, “What happened last night was an abomination! An abomination!”

Folks, nothing that occurred in the process of selecting college football teams to play in games in order to win a big gaudy trophy and ensure the viewing public is kept in line (“Are you not entertained?”) was an abomination. That dude - and everyone like him - needs to take a deep breath, look at the state of the country and the world, and understand whoever wins a championship in any sport doesn't amount to a hill of beans.  

The fact that many citizens seem incapable of grasping this basic truth is an abomination.


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