Bowls of whine preferable to playoff

MIKE LITTWIN

January 03, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

PASADENA, CALIF — PASADENA, Calif. -- The bowls are over, the votes are in, and now the whining begins.

Actually, I'm waiting for someone to sue.

Or, maybe the confusion will become a campaign issue in the primary season. Pat Buchanan: How are you going to have a new world order when this country can't even figure out who's the best college football team? I say America's first. Or is it Miami?

Is it Miami? Or is it Washington?

It's both. It's neither.

It's a tie, and you know how Americans feel about ties. I mean, what do you do -- run around with half a finger in the air, screaming, "We're tied for No. 1, we're tied for No. 1"? We got tired of ties right after Vietnam.

In a country that demands order -- on its playing fields, if not on its actual streets -- we've got a messy, muddled, muddied, chaotic, pretty close to anarchic situation here. Somebody could get hurt.

How did we get to this point? It seems that Miami and Washington each played 12 games, each won them all, each won its bowl game impressively. The Associated Press poll of writers and broadcasters -- not the most reliable group known to humankind -- voted for Miami. The USA Today/CNN poll of college football coaches -- another suspect group -- voted for Washington.

Is this an acceptable ending? A year ago, the writers went for Colorado and the coaches for Georgia Tech. Can't we get together on this? Can't anyone make up his mind?

Obviously, the only way out of this mess -- other than simply allowing Dick Nixon to determine the winner, as he tried to do in 1969 -- is to have a playoff system, just as they do in every other NCAA sport, including the other divisions of college football.

Right? Wrong-o.

Dead wrong. Not even close.

For one thing, if there were a playoff system, I couldn't write this column every year.

For another, well, what's so terrible about having a few loose ends? Why can't sports be like life its ownself? In life, everything isn't tied into a neat, little package delivered with the morning paper.

This way, it gives people something to talk about. Generally, when you go home, you sit down at the dinner table, and the conversation with your spouse goes something like this:

You: How was work today?

Him/her: Msplfg.

You: That's nice, dear.

But today it might actually get interesting:

You: Boy, you gotta like Miami. They've got a great team. Did you see them? They killed Nebraska, who wouldn't have scored if they'd played a week. And Miami has really cleaned up its act. They went through the entire night without a single kid getting arrested. They've got to be No. 1.

Him/her: Miami? You nuts? So big deal, they beat Nebraska, where they still haven't discovered the forward pass. Washington crushed Michigan, the No. 4 team in the country and made Magic Howard disappear. If these guys played, Steve Emtman would spend more time in the Miami backfield than Larry Jones. Anyone could see it's got to be Washington.

You: No, it's Miami.

Him/her: Washington.

You: MIAMI.

Him/her: WASHINGTON.

You: MIA . . . (a plate flies over your head).

See? That's fun, right? And we're not even going to get into how a college football playoff would last until spring break. Or how, if you did away with the bowl-game system, the next thing you know they'd eliminate parades, and then what do we do with all those marching bands, not to mention the giant Snoopy balloons?

As you may have heard, they're trying to fix the bowls so that there's a better chance the top two teams would meet somewhere on New Year's Day. But that wouldn't have worked this year, since the Pac-10 winner, Washington, is always going to play in the Rose Bowl against the Big Ten winner.

It doesn't seem to bother the coaches who were here. Before the game was played, Washington coach Don James said: "I'm opposed to the playoffs. On Jan. 2, if we're No. 1, I don't want to play anybody else." And Michigan coach Gary Moeller said: "I don't think we need to go the way of the NFL. I don't think it's in our best interest to change the system."

And there you have it. Is the point of college football simply to anoint a national champion at season's end?

Or is the point of college football, well, now that I think about it, I have no idea what the point of college football is. But this seems like a fine time to put the game to rest for another season.

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