Obama Boosting Gators and Nittany Lions?
By Joel Achenbach
Last night on Monday Night Football, Chris "Boomer" Berman asked both presidential candidates what they'd like to change in the world of sports. McCain's answer was pretty straightforward: Get rid of performance-enhancing drugs. But Obama's response was clearly -- obviously, blatantly -- geared with an eye toward the Electoral College map. This will take some explaining. Also some tortured logic. Bear with me.
Obama said, "I think it is about time that we had playoffs in college football. You know, I'm fed up with these computer rankings and this and that and the other. Get eight teams, top eight teams at the very end, you got a playoff, decide on a national champion."
For those of you who don't follow college football -- and God help you -- there has been for many decades a controversy over the lack of a playoff system to determine an incontrovertible champion. Instead, for decades, there were just a smattering of bowl games, at the conclusion of which the champion would be whichever team finished at the top of the polls conducted by organizations such as the Associated Press. But the polls sometimes contradicted one another. So a few years back, the mandarins who run the game created a Bowl Championship Series, in which one game would be designated the national championship game. That, however, meant that only two teams at the end of the season could be eligible for the decisive contest. Often there were three, four, five, six teams or more that could plausibly claim to be the best in the land. Who has so often been left out in the cold despite an immaculate record?
With 21 electoral votes!
Joe Paterno's squad has routinely been edged aside despite perfect seasons. The pollsters have questioned whether Penn State's schedule is sufficiently challenging. But why not let the Nittany Lions have a shot in a real playoff? [Also we need to find out, at some point, what a Nittany Lion is.]
Now look at what just happened in the last 48 hours or so: Texas Tech beat No. 1 Texas on a last-second miracle play, and vaulted to No. 2 in the BCS standings, past unbeaten Penn State, which unwisely had taken the week off.
The top two teams in the standings right now are both from extremely red states: Alabama and Texas. Obama doesn't need to pander to the Crimson Tide or the Longhorns. But Pennsylvania is crucial to his plans for an Electoral College majority. And Florida would be a nice bonus, too, especially after the 2000 debacle. The Florida Gators, who just chewed up the Georgia Bulldogs and spit them into the St. John's River down in Jacksonville, are now No. 5 in the BCS. At No. 4 is - oh no! -- Texas. As it currently stands, the Gators might get frozen out of the title game even though they look like the best team in the country.
A college football playoff, therefore, would help teams like Penn State and Florida. With 48 electoral votes between them.
VERY savvy answer, Senator Obama.
Washington Post editors
November 4, 2008; 11:59 AM ET
Categories: A_Blog , Barack Obama
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