Friday, August 27

Turning The Game into a game

I first heard about it from a somewhat-cryptic Twitter update from America's Greatest Sportswriter, Joe Posnanski. What you say? Something's up with the Ohio State-michigan game? I had to learn more.

I ran a search and found out what Joe was talking about: it appears that Ohio State-Michigan, The Game, will no longer be the final contest of the season in a realigned Big Ten. Although no formal announcement has been made, it appears that OSU and Michigan will be placed in opposite six-team divisions of the 12-team misnomer that will be the 2011 Big Ten, will play their annual game in October and could face each other in a Big Ten Championship game, provided the teams win their respective divisions.

The reaction from the sports world has been unanimous: in the words of Samir Nagheenanajar, this is horrible, this idea. No one likes it. NO ONE. I recommend the article by Dan Wetzel that I linked above - it makes strong arguments both logical (Auburn and Alabama maintained their season-ending rivalry in a mega-SEC) and emotional (100+ years of tradition!). The only positive comment I read on the planned arrangement came from michigan "Athletic Director" David Brandon, who said in all apparent seriousness, "One of the best things that could happen, in my opinion in a given season, would be the opportunity to play Ohio State twice." Let that one sink in, Buckeye fans. The highest of high comedy.

I conducted a highly scientific poll concerning this issue, and 100% of respondents described it, unprompted, as "dumb," with one pollee going so far as to label it "fucking dumb." (Full disclosure: I asked Nick and Figgs and included my own opinion. Margin of error: 0 points.) One out of three respondents needed a minute to stop laughing after considering the notion of michigan winning a championship of anything, at least until they start giving out titles for ugly helmets and recruiting violations. I bet even my man in the photo above thinks it's a terrible idea, and we're talking about a guy who thought it was a good idea to wear that hat and that shirt in public.

And of course, now it's time to talk money. Obviously, the sole reason the NCAA and the Big Ten favor this arrangement is that they think they can make the most money from it. I'm not being overly cynical - that's just how major college football works. Sometimes this is even a good thing - I don't care what time of day the networks decide games need to start, as long as they keep putting them on TV. Still, cases like this must make Bud Selig terribly envious of the NCAA's efforts to turn fans away from their product. As the Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises points out, OSU and Michigan would have only met in this title game three or four times in the past seventeen years. It's not clear to me how destroying the mystique of The Game on the off chance that OSU and Michigan make the title game is good for the league.

I'm not a fellow who's big on tradition, especially when I view something as simply tradition for the sake of tradition. But this is a GREAT tradition, without question one of the finest in all of sports. Shark Week has nothing on michigan Week. Whether we're good (we are), or they're good (this used to happen occasionally), or both are good, or neither, it's just great having the best rivalry in college athletics take place at the end of the season, right where it belongs. And the Big Ten's officials want to take that game and move it to October, so it's just another game before the two clubs take on Indiana and Minnesota the next week? This isn't right.

I suppose the best hope now is that the immense public backlash causes the dummies in charge of this decision to reconsider their position. Go Bucks!

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