I did something silly. I read the comments at the bottom of Comrade Dodd's item about the Football Writers Association of America taking back its 2004 Grantland Rice Trophy from Southern California, and it occurred to me that college football fans would rather argue incessantly about a past they cannot change than just about anything else in life.
And that's why the FWAA decision is so palpably silly. It purports to change the past, which is always an idiot's game.
|Move along, folks. According to the FWAA, Matt Leinart and USC never won the 2004 championship. (US Presswire)|
So what's their mistake that demands correction? Voting on something based on what they knew at the time. Those hyenas! How could they not know something they could not know?
Worse, though, there is a subtle measure of arrogance involved here, as though the writers are supposed to help defend college football from its own rich history of corruption, weaselry and rot. Well, here's a flash. The writers don't work for college football and are not responsible for the industry's savagely cavalier view as regards their own rules.
Don't forget, after all, that the NCAA didn't ferret out USC. Bush's entourage collapsed in on itself because someone didn't get a sufficient piece of the action.
The problem here, as it always has been, is that college football can only punish the innocent in these cases, and does not hesitate to do so for public relations reasons. They can ask USC for its money back from the offending seasons, but in most cases none of the players or coaches who did the crime are still eligible to do the time. Indeed, the only guy who actually did get hit here was Mike Garrett, the shamed athletic director who got run off the job with prejudice. His crime? Staying too long around the crime scene and laughing.
But we are wandering from the point about the FWAA. By choosing to help be the guardians of the game, the organization strays from its level of competence. And then, having done half the job, it doesn't want to make up a scenario in which it can divine whom the champion would have been in an alternative universe.
Now that's strange -- wanting to mess with the time-space continuum without going in with both feet. I mean, if you're denying what America saw, why not change history completely and declare a new champion? Hell, why not declare three? Why not make everybody happy?
Now here's the one part of the mess that actually works. College football fans live in a universe that works on uncertainty, of nothing that is ever sure or real. They would rather argue for all eternity about what should have been than say, "Yeah, that happened. Good enough."
How they live in this state of perpetual impermanence is a wonderment, but they do, and seemingly very happily. There are no champions, certainly none who deserve it, and My Favorite Team never loses, even when they go 0-12. It just lost to moral defectives, cheaters and scum over and over again.
The BCS is a fiction. The polls are a fiction (and I should know, being an AP voter and all). The sanctions are a fiction. Now the results themselves are a fiction. It's a make-believe world that ultimately cannot hold, because some day the powerful schools will band together and create a Darwinian system whereby the only thing that matters is the result because there will be rules to use to change it. It is the only way college football will survive, as much as its constituents enjoy the benefit of the world they're in.
The one in which the games don't matter at all. Only the arguments about what should have been.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.