Archive for January, 2015

Parity Returns to College Football?

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

So another College Football Season is done. Time to revisit my Bowl Championship System:

A few years ago, I invented my own Bowl Championship Points system in response to the Bowl Championship Cup. You can read all about it here, including my now hilarious prediction that the 2013 national title game would be a close matchup. The basic idea is that the Championship Cup was silly, as evidenced by ESPN abandoning it. It decides which conference “won” the bowl season by straight win percentage with three or more bowls. So it is almost always won by a mid-major conference that wins three or four bowls. The Mountain West has claimed five of them, usually on the back of a 4-2 or 3-1 record.

My system awards points to conferences that play in a lot of bowls and a lot of BCS bowls. As such, it is possible for a mid-major to win, but they have to have a great year. The Mountain West won in 2010-2011, when they won four bowls including a BCS game. But it will usually go to a major conference.

Here are the winners of the Bowl Championship Points system for the time I’ve been keeping it.

1998-1999: Big Ten (12 points, 5-0, 2 BCS wins)
1999-2000: Big Ten (10 points, 5-2, 2 BCS wins)
2000-2001: Big East (8 points, 4-1, 1 BCS win)
2001-2002: SEC (9 points, 5-3, 2 BCS wins)
2002-2003: Big Ten (9 points, 5-2, 1 BCS win)
2003-2004: ACC/SEC (9 points each)
2004-2005: Big 12 (6 points, 4-3, 1 BCS win)
2005-2006: Big 12 (8 points, 5-3, 1 BCS win)
2006-2007: Big East/SEC (11 points each)*
2007-2008: SEC (14 points, 7-2, 2 BCS wins)
2008-2009: SEC/Pac 12 (11 points each)*
2009-2010: SEC (10 points, 6-4, 2 BCS wins)
2010-2011: Mountain West (8 points, 4-1, 1 BCS win)
2011-2012: Big 12 (11 points, 6-2, 1 BCS Win)
2012-2013: SEC (10 points, 6-3, 1 BCS win)
2013-2014: SEC (11 points, 7-3, 0 BCS wins)

(*In 2006-7, the Big East went 5-0 in bowls. But the SEC went 6-3, with two BCS wins and a national title. To my mind, that was equally impressive.)

(**In 2008-9, the Pac 12 went 5-0 in bowls. But the SEC went 6-2, with a BCS win and a national title. Again, depth is important to winning the points system.)

I have long been saying that the SEC’s dominance was waning, based on the points system. They had a good year last year, but their performance had slowly been declining from its 2008 peak. And to the extent that the SEC did dominate, it was a result of being one of the only conferences that played defense, not “SEC speed”. Last year, I saw the Pac 12 rising and predicted we were moving toward two super-conferences — the SEC and the Pac 12 — dominating the college football scene. But this year, the Big Ten moved into the discussion. In retrospect, that’s not surprising given that two of their best Bowl teams were able to play again.

So who wins for 2014? Based on the points, the title is split between the Big 10 and the Pac 12. The Pac 12 went 6-3 with one playoff win. The Big 10 went 6-5 with three playoff wins. As a tie-breaker, I’m perfectly willing to give the title to the Big 10 based on Ohio State winning the championship. While they were barely above .500, I think the outstanding performance of their top teams is more impressive than Conference USA’s 4-1 performance in lesser bowls, which would have won the Bowl Championship Cup.

But what really jumps out this year is the parity. The SEC went 7-5 for nine points as well. Conference USA went 4-1 for seven points. For the first time since 2010-11, no conference had negative points. I think it’s safe to say that the Big Ten is back and can now claim, along with the SEC and Pac 12, to be one of the best conferences in the country. That’s good for the Big Ten. But I also think it’s good for college football. We’re better off when the game is competitive.

Toys, Kids and the Crisis of Abundance

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

One of the reasons I like having kids is the toys. Not because I like to play with them (although I do), but because there is nothing in the world quite like the look a child gets in their eyes when they get a toy, especially an unexpected and delightful one. When Abby was about three months old, I brought home a teething ring and a rattle. She was sitting in her car seat in the kitchen and saw me and her little eyes lit up. She just knew it was something for her. And every now and then, I’ll see that same delight.

This week, however, I’ve been in one of my moods. Not a bad mood but a mood that makes me clean up the entire house from top to bottom. In doing so, I filled two huge garbage bags with nothing but crap. Papers with drawings on them, little trinkets and toys from kids’ parties, Happy Meals, giveaways and $1 trinkets that she simply had to have. And I don’t think my child is that unusual in that regard. It seems that every parent’s house is filling with these little pieces of crap. You have to dump it regularly or you’ll be overwhelmed.

For children in the US — at least in the middle class and above — toys are no longer this rare and wonderful treat. They’re something they get on a regular basis, something they expect to see. Oh, they’ll still have delight when a really good one comes along. But it makes me indescribably sad to see these dozens of little toys, unwanted and unloved, to see the few minutes of happiness she got out of them before casting them aside. And I know that the same thing will happen with my son.

(Interesting, I think she feels the same way. There are toys she hasn’t played with in ages but I have to sneak them out of the house because she doesn’t want to part with them.)

I also can’t help but think of the long-term impact. I’m no radical environmentalist, but it pains me to think of the resources and energy spent making millions of McDonald’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys that will just end up in landfills, that will bring very little real joy to the world.

It’s just another aspect of our crisis of abundance. We’re so rich and things are so cheap that they no longer have any value.