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Bowling for Obama

Robert Kessler | Thursday, January 15, 2009

Last week college football fans were treated to a BCS Championship game that unequivocally named the Florida Gators the champions off the 2008 college football season. Or did it?

Before the game even started teams from Salt Lake City, Austin, and Compton were claiming that they were deserving of being named champions, and many writers agreed with them. Despite the fact that I fell asleep during the second quarter of a game that was almost as boring as Benjamin Button [key word: almost] I believe the Gators deserve the National Championship that has been presented to them, and that the other teams should just stop their whining.

But not everybody agrees with me. Most notably, our President-elect has been outspoken in his requests for a college football playoff to determine the national champion. This is most interesting because we have no evidence that Barack Obama is a college football fan. He talks about being a White Sox fan, he appeared on a Bears Monday Night Football game in 2006, and he talks often about his love of basketball, but how could a person who went to Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard possibly know what the biggest college football fans actually want?

Does his plea for a playoff come from his belief that a playoff would be the best thing for the sport? Or is it simply to appeal to the media hounds that love to talk about a playoff. OR is this logic just coming from his Hollywood connections who are all disappointed about a certain team going to the Rose Bowl again? The fact of the matter is that there are several downsides to a college football playoff that the non-college fan could not possibly understand.

The most common argument against a playoff is that it devalues the regular season. This year, games that were incredibly exciting because of their BCS implications included Texas – Texas Tech, Alabama – Florida, USC – Oregon State, and Penn State – Iowa. If there was a playoff, these games would have only been important for seeds, but the BCS eliminated the losers of all of these games making the stakes higher than most every regular season NFL game.

More interestingly, however, is the fact that a playoff system would also devalue the other bowl games that currently exist. Already we have seen bowls such as the Cotton Bowl and the bowl formerly known as the Citrus Bowl become less important because they landed on the outside of the BCS. If a playoff was instituted, all the non-playoff bowl games would become a sideshow much like the NFL’s Pro Bowl or the UEFA Cup. While somebody who is not a fan of college football (or more importantly, a specific team) might see no purpose to these other bowl games, us college football fans know that they are the heart and soul of our sport.

This year’s other bowls gave Ole Miss the chance to prove that its win over Florida was no fluke. They gave TCU the opportunity to prove that they are a top 10 team. They gave Utah the mere opportunity to enter into the National Championship conversation, and they gave Vanderbilt fans something many haven’t seen in their lifetime (a bowl victory). Most importantly, however, this year’s lesser bowls gave us Notre Dame fans something to cheer about after two of our most painful seasons.

Five weeks ago I wrote in this paper about how disappointing the past four years of Notre Dame Football had been. Things had gotten so bad that even most Notre Dame Fans did not think that our team could beat lowly Hawaii. This game gave us something to look forward to for the future, as well as something to be happy about in the present. If it wasn’t for the lesser bowls, I would have never been able to proudly wear my Kyle Rudolph/Ethan Johnson [sorry Zibby] jersey to midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Bowl games give half the country something awesome to cheer about and make lasting memories for the fans of the schools that come out victorious. Barack Obama says that a playoff system would be best for the sport because he is seemingly not a fan of the sport and has probably never even attended a bowl game. He wasn’t the Ole Miss Senior that cheered victoriously as the Cotton Bowl trophy was hoisted feet away from him. He wasn’t the Utah Senior who celebrated New Year’s Eve on Bourbon Street, undoubtedly being taunted and outnumbered by Alabama fans, only to experience the sheer ecstasy of the Ute’s victory. He wasn’t the Notre Dame Senior that wore a football jersey to midnight mass on Christmas Eve in celebration of the bowl victory he’s been waiting far too long to see.

I have been telling anybody who will listen about the football jersey I wore to midnight mass, and I will probably continue to tell people the story for a long time. In fact, I will probably tell my great — nephews the story years from now when I am telling them memories of my Notre Dame years. The bowl system made a memory for me over this year even though I never considered travelling out to Hawaii.

Barack Obama has none of these memories because he never attended a school with a Div. I football program, and because of this he should stop thinking he knows what is best for a sport he can’t possibly understand. As he brings change to this country starting next week, I just hope that he focuses on more important issues that he more fully understands and does not waste his time trying to change my bowl system.

Bob Kessler is a senior majoring in political science and economics. You can contact him at rkessler@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.