Saturday, December 27, 2003

Tocqueville and College Football: A defense of the Bowl Championship Series, by Jeffrey H. Anderson

Weekly Standard

"The public outcry was loud and immediate: How dare the BCS leave out USC, thereby defying public opinion as registered by the media and coaches' polls? Perhaps most striking was the nearly complete absence of any attempt to defend the polls' judgments as correct. Their correctness was held to be self-evident. The consensus view, expressed on ABC's BCS selection show, ESPN's follow-up broadcast, and apparently in living rooms and barrooms across the nation (judging by emails I received), was something along the lines of, 'The polls have USC No. 1, yet the Trojans are not No. 1 in the BCS standings; therefore, the BCS standings are clearly wrong.' This recalls Tocqueville's comment that in America, 'the majority . . . lives in perpetual adoration of itself.'"

Anderson is a co-creator of the BCS and a political science professor. How cool is that? His talents allow him to defend the BCS and work Tocqueville into his analysis. Plus, he's right: the BCS nay-sayers were the same people that complained about the lates-season bias of the AP poll. Under the old system, a team like Oklahoma could beat incredible teams all season, lose their last game to another great team, and be knocked out of contention. Meanwhile, USC could lose to a crappy team early in the season, play medicore teams the rest of the year, and pass Oklahoma.

In sum, the BCS is preferable to heat-of-the-moment sportswriter voting. It avoids Tocqueville's pitfall of the temporary irrational democratic majority, and instead picks the best teams under clear standards everyone knows beforehand. I'm sold.

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