The Alabama Crimson Tide is once again on top of the heap in college football, and this is a good thing. Critics be damned; it’s just simple economics.
Since the beginning of the movie industry in the early 20th century, action movies have been a popular genre. Whether it was the Lone Ranger or Indiana Jones, when you went to a movie you knew the main character was going to save the day. People liked Robin too, but no one ever suggested he was just as good as Batman. Why, then, do so many people in the media hype inferior teams as equals?
Parity is bad. For years, college football has taken steps to spread the wealth by reducing the number of scholarships, changing rules on recruiting and regulating facilities on campuses. The idea was that smaller programs might attract better players and win bigger games. To an extent, that has happened and everyone has adjusted, but where does football socialism end?
This bowl season, we saw a bunch of empty seats. Overall bowl attendance was down five percent, reaching lows not seen in more than thirty years. The Sugar Bowl, once a goal for major programs, had the lowest attendance since 1939. You can blame the economy to an extent, but you can also blame parity for diluting the final product. Bowl games used to be a reward for excellence. Creating more bowls doesn’t create more excellence.
This year, the BCS Championship featured two traditional powers in the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish. In recent years, both teams have spent some time in the wilderness but both have emerged from down years due to hard work, a winning tradition and a solid base of fans. Tickets prices were astronomical, but fans filled the stadium. As Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg says “They love their school, and that, ultimately, is the best part of college football.” Maybe bowl attendance was down across the nation because people were simply not interested in the brand they were being sold. Maybe the final product was not worth the perceived cost of admission. You can’t build a strong program through parity any more than you can tax your way to economic prosperity. Harming someone else does not make you better.
People love to cheer for the underdog — I do too. The difference between the underdog of yesteryear and parity is perception. In the past, the underdog was a team that climbed the ladder of success with hard work. Today, the underdog is a media generated Cinderella with a cream puff schedule that, we are told, “deserves” a shot. Most children eventually learn that Cinderella is a fairy tale.
Alabama and Notre Dame are elite programs. They are not the only ones in the NCAA, but they have climbed to the top of the game again and again for a reason. This should be applauded. Success is a good thing. As we crawl closer and closer to a playoff in college football, the same talking heads who told you Nowhere State was just as good as your team will start clamoring for a bigger playoff with more parity. Four is plenty. Maybe what we should aspire to is a super conference of traditional power programs. Maybe 32 teams in two 16 team conferences. Everyone else can divide their own pie however they want. Then, we can let simple economics decide for us.
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