Saturday, May 9, 2009

Congress Investigates

Our government has become too responsive to trivial or ephemeral concerns, often at the expense of more important concerns or an erosion of our liberty, and it has made policy priorities more dependent on where TV journalists happen to point their cameras. ~ William A. Niskanen

Back in September, 2005, I opined, "I don't know how I missed a news item this big, but it appears that Congress has balanced the budget, saved Social Security, solved high energy costs, prevented the coming fuel-induced recession, and fixed the whole mess in Iraq. At least, I think they must have, because how else can one explain the Senate actually wasting time on Major League Baseball's steroid problem?"

Well, here it is, May of 2009. The budget deficit is at record levels, Social Security is still a huge mess, the fuel-induced recession arrived (aided and abetted by the greed of the financial community), and we're still in Iraq. In addition, those In addition to those things, the auto industry, which has been trying to commit suicide for decades has finally succeeded, thanks in large part to the energy boys making the profitable gas hogs suddenly very unpopular.

But, there's a new sheriff in town and the Democrats are in charge, so we look with hope to all this change everyone is on about. What do we get? Congress wants to hold hearings to investigate the Bowl Championship Series, better known as the BCS.

Sorta makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?

Interestingly, in December, 2005, I reported that Congress was considering doing precisely the same thing, investigating the BCS. For some reason, they didn't get around to it then, but this time they can point to none other than the President of the United States having come out in favor of a playoff. Also, they're probably still patting themselves on the back for having "solved" the steroid problem.

As to the latter, any progress made in cutting down steroid abuse can be attributed to the DEA and whoever else has cracked down on the illegal sales of steroids and to Jose Canseco, who wrote a book exposing the whole sordid mess. By the time Congress got into the act (and made fools of themselves by mispronouncing names of star players), Barry Bonds was already in hot water, and Roger Clemens' personal trainer was already in trouble with the law. Aside from exposing a few names that Canseco missed, Congress did little or nothing, beyond putting on a show while ignoring substance abuse in football (you really think 300 lb. lineman who run like cats got that way in the gym?) and basketball (where its thought as many as half the players are doing marijuana).

So these guys are going to solve the BCS. This is the same Congress that has been bought and paid for by lobbyists for so long that nothing of substance ever gets passed to regulate industries that need it. I've noticed that calls from that same President for increased regulation of financial insitutions have gone largely unheard by the same Congressmen who were so attuned to his opinions on college football.

Everyone knows that Division I-A football is the only NCAA sport that can't seem to figure out how to get a playoff in place. Further, everyone knows that the reason for this is that there is too much money involved in the bowl system for anyone to change things. Even though the bowls could be used as the framework for a four- or eight-team playoff, that would leave the majority of them as small time sideshows. It would no longer be possible to jam 15 bowl games into one week, so they can all be held around New Year's Day.

The college presidents all seem to be against the playoffs, ostensibly because it would add so many games to the schedule (for the teams that win). Now, they don't seem to have this concern about the basketball playoffs, which now can add six games to the finalists' total. If they're so worried about the length of the football schedule, why did they increase the season to 12 games, with a championship game in most conferences?

Well, they get all the money from those extra home games for starters. And don't kid yourself, the BCS conferences added those extra games to HOME schedules, bringing in non-BCS teams in most cases to play those games. Ohio State, Alabama, USC, it doesn't matter; check their schedules and you'll see 8 home games in a 12 game season.

They also see the payouts from non-playoff bowl games shrinking because they'd have to be played in and around the much more interesting playoff games. That would also cut into the dough rolling in. And, of course, a fair playoff system would elminate the 'BCS" conference system anyway, which would really hack into money that the Big Ten, Pac 10, SEC, Big 12, and whoever else is BCS add to their coffers.

The irony is that they need all this money to support the bloated athletic programs they have created, with huge highly paid coaching staffs in football and basketball, huge recruiting expenses, monstrous stadiums and arenas to support, and endless athletic scholarships to fund.

If Congress is so anxious to investigate college sports, a look into where all this money goes would be a lot more worthwhile than worrying about whether Utah will ever get to play in the National Championship Game.

Yeah, when pigs fly -- or the banks get re-regulated.

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