Barack Obama's strident stand on the Bowl Championship Series may be waning a bit. That is, if we can extrapolate his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court into something it probably isn't, and what else is the Internet for if it can't take something and turn it into something else?
That Obama may be viewing the BCS with less distaste than before is, at least, one conclusion that could be made by sports fans who don't pay attention to matters like the future of American jurisprudence. They see Sotomayor's nomination as the replacement for David Souter (whom they are only vaguely aware of, if at all) as an inconsistent response to Congress' laughable non-grilling of BCS godfather Jon Swofford.
|Sonia Sotomayor's previous sports-related rulings suggest a pro-BCS stance. (Getty Images)|
Sotomayor was credited with hastening the end of the baseball lockout in 1995 with her ruling upholding basic labor law against the wishes of Major League Baseball, but her ruling upholding the NFL's age rules for draft eligibility in 2004 was a less noted but equally fascinating ruling. Maurice Clarett's desire to be drafted after his freshman year at Ohio State in 2004 seemed an easily defensible position until Sotomayor and two other appeals court judges upheld the rule and struck down Clarett.
So follow the dubious but fun-filled logic here:
Sotomayor rules for the NFL, and by extension the NCAA, in the Clarett matter. The NCAA is defending the BCS as the best way to squeeze the maximum blood from the maximum number of television and sponsorship turnips. Now what unwarranted but amusing conclusion can we jump to based on these seemingly unrelated events?
Exactly. Her ruling helped Ohio State and the NCAA. She's in the tank for the Big Ten and the NCAA. The Big Ten and the NCAA are in the tank for the BCS. Obama nominated her to be one of the Big Nine. Ergo, Obama is rethinking his position on the BCS.
Well, he probably wasn't going to win Utah in 2012 anyway.
The Clarett ruling is an odd one in many ways, but legal scholars agree she and her two fellow judges (either Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden or two other people) decided the issue hinged on collective bargaining vs. workers rights and came down on the side of ... well, the potential employer.
And though the potential employer here was the NFL, the NCAA has its own definition of employees. Namely, people who generate money without receiving any of their own. We needn't lead you to the word that concept describes.
In any event, it was a nice win for the NFL, an even nicer win for the NCAA (which wasn't even in the room during the argument), and if this wasn't just an overly narrow reading of the collective bargaining statutes, we can assume by contorting ourselves into some seriously difficult positions that this means that the NCAA can pretty much do what it wants when it wants.
As in, sort of the way it is now.
Given that the BCS is the most public annoyance the NCAA buttresses these days (paying players for their labors is still way off the table), this might mean Sotomayor's would be a serious dissent from any Supreme Court decision overturning the BCS.
Now, two things. One, the Supreme Court will never be involved in the BCS issue unless Congress gets off its bloated and ever-widening hinder and actually creates a bill creating a football tournament (odds: a zillidybillion to one). Two, Sotomayor is a Yankee fan by her own admission, so the BCS is probably off her radar.
But we're going with this anyway because we have no indication that she has an opinion on other sporting issues of the day, like NBA officiating (more Violet Palmer?), letting Jose Canseco do MMA shows (when did the dancing bear fall out of cultural favor?) or Brett Favre (God, please don't let her have a legal opinion on Brett Favre, please please please).
Unless we learn more in the vetting process (the Judiciary Committee has nine senators from Big Ten or Pac-10 states, and only five from SEC or Big 12 states, draw your own unwarranted conclusions), we will have to wonder if the president has decided that the BCS has some wiggle room.
Or if his stance has a lot more don't-give-a-damn than we first realized.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.