Good thing thoroughbred racing isn’t a real sport like college football. Otherwise, a ridiculous long shot like Mine That Bird could never have won Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
The silly Derby has the audacity to allow as many as 20 3-year-olds to run for the roses. So Mine That Bird — let’s just call it a four-legged Boise State — somehow qualified, then slogged past a mediocre field to win the muddiest Derby in recent memory, much to the delight of anyone who placed a win bet on the 50-to-1 shot.
All of which begs the question: When is Congress going to get around to looking into horse racing in much the same way it apparently has taken on college football’s Bowl Championship Series?
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. If the government can’t fix GM, Chrysler, health care or the banking industry, how does it ever expect to solve the BCS?
Yet here sat our public servants Friday, grilling BCS coordinator John Swofford, apparently unconcerned that all that hot air in close quarters could heighten the risk of swine flu.
When Swofford observed that the playoff format favored by many of our elected leaders might make it “very difficult for any bowl, including the current BCS bowls, which are among the oldest and most established in the game’s history, to survive,” the war of words was on.
Especially when it came to Rep. Joe Barton of Texas. Long a BCS basher, Barton attempted to shake up Swofford by demanding as only a Texan can demand, “If we don’t see some action in the next two months, on a voluntary switch to a playoff system, then you will see this bill move.”
Kind of carries you back to the words of another Texas Republican’s stirring challenge to “Bring ’em on,” doesn’t it?
Anyway, Barton’s bill would prevent the BCS from calling its game a national championship contest unless it was played at the conclusion of a playoff. And you thought former president Bill Clinton was the only recent member of government who had ever given much thought to the true definition of words.
This isn’t to say nothing will happen. President Barack Obama has gone on record pushing for a playoff on at least three occasions. Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah has placed the BCS on the Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee agenda this year, and Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff is investigating whether the BCS violates federal antitrust laws.
Naturally, it’s just a coincidence that the University of Utah was denied a spot in last year’s BCS title game, despite finishing the season as the nation’s only undefeated major college team.
Moreover, Utah’s Mountain West Conference has proposed a playoff using the four current BCS bowls — the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar — as first-round playoff games.
As for who picks the eight teams who’ll compete for that title, the MWC is pushing for a 12-member committee, much as March Madness’s at-large entries are chosen by committee.
To which I say, “Cry me a river.” Is this really what you want, America? To have college football become less dependent on computers? Do you really want that giant crystal egg known as the Sears Trophy to wind up in the hands of Utah, Boise State or Toledo?
Did you see the Derby on Saturday? The winning jockey was crying like a baby. The trainer drove Mine That Bird 21 hours from New Mexico to Kentucky. The Beverly Hillbillies took over Churchill Downs.
Schools that win the BCS — schools such as Florida, LSU and Southern Cal — don’t drive for take-out unless it’s in a limo. They fly to home games. They’re AIG before a bailout was needed.
You let 12 average citizens determine the playoffs and suddenly anyone could get in. A Mine That Bird might actually win it all one day, and what fun would that be?
There’s also this, which Congressman Barton and his frivolous followers strongly need to consider.
In trashing the BCS on Friday, Barton said, “It’s like communism. You can’t fix it.”
But if they’ll just keep trying, they can continue to avoid fixing the economy, the environment and all those other nettlesome concerns that overwhelm the rest of us.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...