Dec 12, 2013

Farewell, B(c)S

posted by killre

If you have ever seen ESPN stock player Rece Davis on television, you could not be blamed for finding the word "jockey" pushing its way to the forefront of whatever part of your mind is responsible for word association.  Statistics pertaining to Davis' physical size are (I would imagine) difficult to unearth.  That's understandable since they are far less important to most people than those of the athletes he covers.  It is probably safe to assume, though, that his dimensions fall within the ambiguous parameters that you and I would consider "normal."  He just looks elfin in stature because, with one exception, he spends his studio time surrounded by hulking ex-jocks.

A digression:  The lone exception is former football coach Lou Holtz, a lisping little leprechaun of approximately 278 years of age.  On ESPN's Sunday night bowl selection special, Holtz had the half-drunken temerity to do a mildly humorous impression of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.  The short sketch was accurate enough to widen the eye, though that owes far less to Holtz's talent as a mimic than to the fact that Spurrier currently uses the same style of coach-speak Holtz once did, but he does it with a southern accent.

Anyway... Davis can be seen as a jockey for another reason.  As the lone broadcaster in a telecast that features a stable of juiced behemoths, it is his job to exert what control he can over the big dumb animals around him, keeping them on-track and on-pace and knowing when to give them their head, coaxing them to their best performances while simultaneously keeping them from destroying the set.  Also like a jockey, no-one but a few insiders cares how good or bad he is at his job.  Most people care only about the horses he rides.

The jockey metaphor aside, Davis --as well as his faceless fellow anchors-- is a moderator: selecting topics, posing questions, picking and choosing which analyst gets to garble their own answer and for how long.  He is not expected to voice an opinion of his own.  ESPN, in fact, discourages its anchors from giving their opinions, even during opinion-laden programming.  If they could discourage their anchors from ever having opinions, they would.  Opinions reveal distinctive personalities, after all, and ESPN much prefers their anchors be drones: they ruffle fewer feathers and command lower salaries.  The day after somebody develops a robot that can host Sportscenter, ESPN will be knocking on their door with one hand and waving a fat check in the other.  Maybe they already have.

In spite of all this, Rece Davis has managed to be opinionated-- at least on occasion.  Mindful no doubt of the wrath of the tight-sphinctered, big-brother management types who make employment decisions, these occasions have been far enough between that when he does actually say something worth noting it strikes one as being out of character.  You can't help but wonder why Davis wouldn't be equally mindful of one of the other major pitfalls of venturing an opinion:  He might be wrong.

In my opinion, that was the case Sunday night, soon after Davis was done waxing wistful over the imminent demise of the political organization known to college football fans as the Bowl Championship Series, or B(c)S.  For those of you who have always wondered what the heck a B(c)S is, don't worry: it soon won't matter...

...but I'll tell you anyway.

[edit.  There was to have been at this point a short section on the history of the college football bowl system.  While it would have been entertaining enough for some, I have sent it the way of the dodo due to two significant drawbacks:  1. short became long; 2. much of the information is well-known, and rehashing it here served little purpose outside of a gauntlet of pointed jokes.  Suffice it to say the B(c)S is (soon to be was) just the latest fraudulent ploy in a nearly three-decades-long campaign by the already-rich but still insanely greedy powers-that-be in major college football to dupe the sporting public into thinking there was a credible framework for determining the sport's overall champion while in fact stubbornly preserving the cash-cow status quo.  If you think that sentence is {insert adjective of your choice}, you'd be flabbergasted by the paragraphs it replaced.]

...All of which led to Rece Davis stepping out of his moderator's role Sunday night and slipping the audience the shocker of an opinion cast in a complete sentence-- something his on-set cohorts are often incapable of doing.

I would love to provide you, Dear Reader, with Davis' precise quote.  Unfortunately, I can't.  While my mental reaction to his statement was almost immediate, it didn't include the idea of saving the recording on my DVR.  A transcript of the broadcast probably exists somewhere, but sifting through the mountainous haystack of information ESPN publishes on-line for the needle they probably didn't bother to release --because surely they recognized the vast ocean of words they vomit on their air is, for the most part, almost as pure a form of b-grade s as is the B(c)S itself-- is a task too daunting.  You will, I'm afraid, just have to trust that the following, admittedly loose, paraphrase captures the gist of Davis' argument:

I hope the selection committee (which beginning next year and for the foreseeable future will be responsible for selecting the four-team playoff field) takes a lesson from the B(c)S and doesn't get reactionary and tinker with the selection process, because that's what undermined the public's confidence in the system.

Davis might not have actually used the word "reactionary," but I included it so I could make the following statement:  There is a connotative difference between "reactive" and "reactionary."  What Davis was referring to was this:  In its early years, the B(c)S, on an almost annual basis, tweeked the formula by which it determined who would play in its Championship Game.  It always did so in the off-season (unlike the NBA), and it always did so in response to some idiosyncrasy in the previous year's formula that promoted what many considered a less-deserving team over a more-deserving team.  Despite my criticism of the B(c)S in general, I would argue that this seemingly constant tweeking early on was actually a positive thing-- like a programmer debugging new software.  Problems were found; problems were fixed.  As time went on there was less tinkering (and, correspondingly, less controversy) because the wrinkles had been ironed.  I don't know who Davis has been talking to, but tinkering with the formula was never the problem.

No, Rece, what undermined the public's confidence in the B(c)S is the same thing that has always bothered them about the bowl system:  It isn't a playoff.

P.S.... Dan "That Depends On What Your Definition Of Is-is Is" Hicks must go.

No comments: