We all know what happened in college football last weekend. It was historic. Not since 1985 have poll numbers 2, 3 and 4 lost on the same day, and then it took place in October, not November. The remaining permutations are way too complicated for me to consider, It’s hair-splitting stuff. I will be content to sit back and await the results.
What interests me will be the voting approach of the committee, First of all, I am wholly in favor of human beings having the final say. Use computers to provide statistical information of all kinds, yes. Absolutely. Get all the data you want. But in the end you must use your brain and intuition to decide, if indeed there are tight decisions to be made. An individual committee member must decide if a good win is better than a bad loss, or even what is a good win or what is a bad loss. An individual committee member must decide just how much weight to put on a conference champion. An individual committee member must decide how important it is to have a good so-called “body of work,” as opposed to, say, a hot finish. Is the true object to select whom he or she feels are the best four teams as we head into the playoffs in January, or is it to reward the best “body of work,” even if a team that was great in September or October looks more mortal at the end of November? That may be a tough call.
To me, the ultimate tie-breaker would be this: on a neutral field, would I put my money on Team A or Team B? But that may not be the viewpoint of anyone on the committee.
Meanwhile, there is annual agitation to expand the current 4 to 8. I think the logistics would be nightmarish, but I’’m sure smart people could work that out. One thing I don’t wish to hear from any Power Conference 5 is anything to do with classroom attendance, or academic integrity. Those schools have already made their choice. We know where they stand. Just take a look at the early season travel schedule of the establishment basketball teams. So let’s stop with that nonsense. I’ll say it again: we are the only country that has its institutions of higher learning provide entertainment for the masses. This is purely American. We want this. That’s clear. What it has to do with the academic mission of any given university is another matter. I. of course, am an enabler, as much as any of you. I have been following college sports since 1952. Once they kick off or throw the ball up, I stop worrying about who the players — note I said “players,” not “student-athletes” — are, how they got there, or whether or not they could find any classrooms with a map or GPS.
Well, so much for the angst over NFL ratings. Things were back to normal this past weekend. The Steelers and Cowboys had the best numbers of the season during the second half of that exciting game. The Seahawks and Patriots game was 10 percent higher than last year’s Week 10 Sunday Night Game. That great contest capped off what I think we’d all agree was the best day of the season. There were great back-and-forth games and some wild finishes. A two-point runback of a blocked extra point? Fabulous. Ripping the ball away from someone and going the other way to set up the winning score? Fabulous. It was all great stuff, and let’s see if there is a carryover this coming weekend.
On this topic of the ratings, boy did I get an education from the general public. A column I wrote for the Boston Globe in which I listed 10 possible reasons for the ratings decline attracted the best response to anything I’ve written in a couple of years, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that numerous people told me I had missed the number one reason why they were no longer watching NFL games on TV, or, at least, were doing so less frequently. The reason was they cited was the proliferation of commercials. I couldn’t believe it, but my wife told me I was naive. She could have told me that. This one floored me. Don’t people know the if there were no commercials there would be no games on TV? Aside from that, would that explain the estimated 10 percent drop-off of viewership from last year? Were things any different last year? What was the tipping point?
I guess I was naive because I myself pay no attention to the commercials. I wouldn’t think of sitting down in my favorite chair to watch either a baseball or football game on TV without either a newspaper or stack of magazines at the ready. I take advantage of all the down time provided by these sports to catch up on my reading. I thoroughly enjoyed the Eagles-Falcons game. I can safely say I watched the whole game and missed nothing. I also read what i wanted to read from both the Sunday Boston Globe (exclusive of the sports section, which I read with breakfast) and New York Times during the more than three hours it took to play the game. And in the Dallas-Pittsburgh and New England-Seattle games I spent the huddles, replays, halftime and, yes, commercials, reading magazines. I recommend this approach to everyone.
The very best story of the weekend got buried. Mt. Union lost! The 11-time Division champion had their 112-game regular season winning streak snapped by John Carroll, alma mater of, among many distinguished people, Don Shula, Josh McDaniel and Eric Carmen (surely you remember, “All By Myself”). So hats off to coach Tom Arth and his Blue Streaks. Mt. Union has now slipped to 222-2 since the run began. Hope this doesn’t put coach Vince Kehres on the hot seat.
Corey Seager was a unanimous choice as National league Rookie of the Year, as well he should have been. But I was surprised by the overwhelming support for Detroit pitcher Michael Fulmer as the AL selection. Fuller was a very solid choice. He was 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA. I would have voted for Yankee catcher Gary Sanchez. Yes, he only played in 53 games, but he was spectacular, putting up 20 homers, 42 runs batted in and an OPS of 1.032. I guess I was fixated with the fascinating precedent in 1959, when San Francisco’s Willie McCovey won it despite playing in 52 games. He hit .354. He had 13 homers and 39 runs batted in. He had an OPS (though in 1959 we didn’t know what the hell it was) of 1.085. He even had five triples, two in his major league debut when he went 4-for-4 off Robin Roberts. One supposed knock on Sanchez was that his last 10 games weren’t so hot. But neither were Fulmer’s September outings. Look, I’m not saying Fulmer isn’t a worthy choice. But Sanchez carried the Yankees for a month, to the point where there was even post-season chatter. And it was all due to him.