There is no more contentious topic in the sports community this time of year than college football's Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Secondary to a fierce devotion to the game itself, college football fans and pundits love nothing more than to hate the BCS.
While they clamor for a playoff or "plus-one" system under the guise of fairness, I suspect their real frustration goes much deeper. Jocks hate nerds. It's that simple. They always have and they always will.
Jocks are especially peeved when nerds attempt to impose their nerdiness on others as they do in the math-heavy BCS system.
The BCS would be completely inoffensive to college football purists if dorks would have kept to their Rubik's cubes and allowed the "real experts" (ex-players, coaches, and the media) to crown a champion every January as they did in the good ol' days. But when the BCS changeover occurred in 1998, intellectuals began to infiltrate the college football universe.
Today, the BCS relies on highly complex statistical equations created by people like Jeff Sagarin (an MIT graduate) and Wes Colley (a Princeton PhD in Astrophysical Sciences) to determine objectively the best Division I college football team in the country.
Sagarin and Colley's rankings represent two of six computer rankings that together comprise one-third of the total BCS equation. The other two-thirds remains in the hands of the old guard (former and current players, coaches, and media). This may seem like a relatively small imposition, but so was the Alamo to Texas. To the jock community, computer rankings represent a full-fledged geek invasion into the heart their territory.
Perhaps the most difficult thing to stomach for die-hard fans and college football commentators is that the statistical ranking system usually gets it right.
This season serves as a great example. The BCS pinpointed Auburn and Oregon as the best two teams in country, which is a difficult conclusion to argue with (apologies to TCU fans). The precision of the computers illustrates why nerds are so uniformly despised in the first place--they are usually right.
In spite of its complexity, I actually favor the BCS system over a playoff or "plus-one" system. You may be wondering if I also cheered for Ivan Drago to beat Rocky in Rocky IV. I assure you that I am neither an enemy of college football tradition nor a communist. I just believe that given the pre-existing college bowl structure, the BCS makes the most sense.
It has fostered a competitive environment superior to other sports. In college football every game means something. Teams vie for the national championship every week not just one month of the year--no excuses and no mulligans. That kind of intensity and electricity is unparalleled in the sports world with the exception of perhaps the Olympic Games.
Even though I lean toward the BCS over other options, I do so hesitantly. I can empathize with BCS haters. It is a cruel irony that the champion of the meatiest of all meathead sports is being partially determined by computers, math equations, and people that probably only know the Statue of Liberty as something that sits in New York Harbor. (If you don't get that you joke, you are undoubtedly in the nerd camp.)
As a wannabe jock and armchair quarterback, I too am a little irked that the national championship of anything is computed at all. Like many college football enthusiasts, I have spent my entire life running from math and now it seems to be catching up to me in the most unlikely of places--football.
Shouldn't it be the people that have been chucking Nerf footballs in their backyards since childhood not the kids who were inside punching buttons on their TI-85 calculators that have a say in who plays for a national title? It reeks of injustice. Perhaps it is some sort of cosmic reward to nerds for enduring ridicule and wedgies throughout their lives.
The BCS is not despised because it is inaccurate. It is just annoying that nerds got it right... again. It serves as a visible reminder to jocks nationwide that our grade school teachers were right. Nerds rule the universe--jock world included.