Thursday, January 14, 2016

Fixing the college polls

We see it every year. Have for a very long time. Lots of people make a great deal of fame and fortune because of it. But it's stupid, and always has been.

That would be the college polls in football and basketball. They begin even before seasons start. Teams are ranked according to the "experts". For the most part these so-called experts consist of "eligible" reporters, mysterious behind the scenes stat nerds, and typically a couple computers that were programmed by even more dweebs.

Over the course of their long seasons, we'll see the Top 10 reshuffled often and teams making it into the Top 25, falling back out, then climbing back in -- both on the hardcourt and gridiron. Every day the talking heads on TV will rant about who moved up -- and who moved down. This depends on what happened in the previous few days. In a week things will change again. In a month, everything could look drastically different. It seems like the ultimate wild goose chase with the ever-gullible fans being dragged along.

True, there's no fixing stupid when it comes to the lemmings, but there's a better way.

Any and all polls should be banned until they are at least semi-relevant. Anyone who violates this mandate shall be either...

A. Imprisoned and waterboarded at Guantanamo.
B. Forced to buy life-long season tickets to the Cleveland Browns -- or
C. Parachuted into a desert island to spent a month alone with Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow, Rush Limbaugh and Bieber. Horrors!!!

With those punishments looming, even the hardest core gas baggiest talking heads would think twice before running afoul of the new rule.

When it comes to football, let them play their games through September and October. No polls. Nobody knows who is ranked where. It would make them try harder all along. The first poll should come out in mid-November when things have been sorted out some. Did it make a difference that Alabama got beat by Ole Miss earlier this season? Or Ohio State getting thumped at home by Virginia Tech last year? Not at all. They both went on to become national champions. So what was the point of the poll-mania at the time other than people blathering on without a clue how the season would eventually turn out? By the middle of November, we would all pretty much know what the pecking order is. We don't need an army of phi beta wimpas trying to take us on a mythical two month roller coaster ride beforehand. The cream will eventually rise to the top. That's why they play the regular season.

It should be much the same in basketball. No polls whatsoever until after the Super Bowl has been played in early February. By then, all the patsy games good teams played at the beginning of the season have long been forgotten, they've waded though much of their conference schedule, and we have a pretty good idea of who the top 10 or 12 teams are. Their records will show it.

Besides, in college hoops, all the hype of the previous months gets thrown out the window when the NCAA tournament starts. True, they have to "seed" the brackets -- much like a tennis tournament -- but by then hoops fans fairly well know who the contenders and pretenders are. We never needed a bunch of pseudo geniuses throwing rankings at us back in November and December that didn't matter anyway. It is, and always has been, nothing but worthless sound bytes intended to prey on the sort of people that buy giant foam fingers and show up half naked with school color make up smeared on their bodies. Idiots. Ever wonder how many hours they spend in a bathroom somewhere trying to get all that stuff off later? Do they also buy cold cream by the 55 gallon drum? And what do they wipe it off with? Towels? Good luck throwing all that goop in the washing machine with a serious dose of detergent/bleach and popping it on hot. But I digress.

The point is -- pre and mid-season polls are like trying to predict the weather. In the summer it gets hot. In the winter it gets cold. We get that. Good teams will win and bad teams will lose. It's likely a fair statement to say even casual fans can grasp that concept. They don't need to be bombarded with who went from #8 to #4, or vice-versa every week. It will play itself out eventually when it matters most.

You don't see the same poll-mania applied to pro teams throughout their regular seasons. The NBA, NFL, and NHL only seeds (ranks) their teams when the playoffs start. This is by necessity to determine which team will have home court/field/ice advantage. No mention of it whatsoever in the previous months. Major League Baseball would likely cringe at the thought of nerds and/or computers ranking their teams. They just start sorting out the who's who in October. It doesn't matter who had the best record since the season began in April. Win a series and move on. Lose it and go home. Pretty simple. They have no need nor desire for their teams to be handicapped through spring, summer, and early fall.

Only in college sports, particularly football and basketball, does the ranking/poll madness exist from before the season starts, all through it, and right up until the playoffs start. Then it's all thrown out the window like it never happened in the first place.

So what, exactly, was/is the point of all this irrelevant hysteria that continues to go on every year?

I say ban the polls until only a couple weeks are left in the regular season. The pollsters themselves would have a much better idea of who belongs where, and the teams still have a couple/few games to make a move up or down.

And if the A, B, and C possible punishments listed above aren't a sufficient deterrent to keep the geeks from their burning desire to play the number game -- how about.....

D. Anyone that throws out early poll numbers, be they in print, on radio/TV, online, or even tweets such a thing -- will be immediately hunted down, taken into custody, and be given an automatic sentence of 5 years serving as a man/maid servant to any and all whims of the people mentioned in C above on that desert isle.

That very possibility would be just about enough to scare off Satan himself, let alone the nerds.

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