The title is a trick. The two things—skepticism and years of jubilee—have nothing to do with one another in my post today other than I want to say something about both of these things without making two separate posts. So first skepticism…
I am pretty skeptical by nature, I think. Lord knows I’ve nurtured that trait as well over the years. So it was pretty easy for me to have my doubts about the integrity of the first ever College Football Playoff selection of teams. I know there were all sorts of criteria and data that went into the selection of Alabama v. Ohio State and Oregon v. Florida State. And these four teams all have good cases for being in. I’m not arguing that, so no comments explaining to me why such-and-such team deserved to be there. Still several things make my skeptical antennae buzz:
- Everyone who stands to make money from this must be thrilled! ESPN, NCAA, the conferences with their championship games, makers of swag, the hosting sites, etc. We’ve got four nationally popular teams. Three of the four are storied programs, and Oregon, though not as storied, has implanted itself in the national psyche with the help of the little Swoosh emblem and a long string of successful seasons. Having either Baylor or TCU (or both!) in the final four would have, no doubt, kept almost everyone but the Big 12 from making as much money as they stand to make with the four teams we have in place. I have a funny feeling that if it was Oklahoma or Texas instead of Baylor or TCU, the committee might have had a tougher decision to make. The results this year will almost certainly force the Big 12 to push for a championship game, either by expansion or by exemption, because, hey, there’s money to be made!
- And, while we are on money, according to Forbes we have the #3 most valuable team going up against the #9 most valuable team in the Sugar Bowl. While in the Rose Bowl we have #19 going up against #23 (or so; FSU was listed just outside the top 20; TCU and Baylor were not on the list anywhere!). The rich get richer!
- We also have two intriguing story lines: the last two Heisman winners going up against one another (Mariota is near certain to win the Heisman this year!); and a reunion of an old rivalry in Saban v. Meyer. What story line would Baylor or TCU have given us? Private Christian school v. Goliaths. Cinderellas are more important to March Madness.
- The talk for several weeks leading into the final week of play was whether TCU should be in the final four ahead of Baylor, since Baylor had won the head-to-head game. The committee conveniently got to avoid that dilemma. I’m not convinced the committee would have made a different decision even if the Big 12 had declared an outright conference champion.
My skepticism has not quite reached the level of conspiracy theory, but I wouldn’t be surprised. To add insult to injury, the highest ranked team not to make a big six bowl game is Kansas State, also of the Big 12.
Now to years of jubilee…
I have twins who turn 7 today. The story behind their birth is filled with highs and lows—we were told we lost one during the pregnancy; we feared we lost the other; later the doctor discovered BOTH babies still there; Gail got put on bed rest just before we were to move to Eugene and then again later in the pregnancy; the boys arrive a bit early and have to stay in the NICU for 18 days. Fortunately the final result was a high one, even if their first Christmas was in the hospital. Today, these two boys are full of energy and life. So while we will not be taking a year of respite (Gail and I could use one though!), we will celebrate their jubilee year giving thanks for God’s goodness these past 7 years.
I did say years (pl.) of jubilee. The second bit on this topic comes from the recent presidential address given by outgoing AAR president Laurie Zoloth.
Dr. Zoloth used her presidential address to call on her colleagues to plan a sabbatical year, a year in which they would cancel their conference. In her vision, they would all refrain from flying across the country, saving money and carbon. It could be a year, Dr. Zoloth argued, in which they would sacrifice each other’s company for the sake of the environment, and instead would turn toward their neighborhoods and hometowns.
Read the full NY Times piece here. I wonder how seriously this idea will be considered.