Debates on Draft - Are Championship Blowout Losses Really a Bad Thing?

In a throwback to the old site, we're resurrecting a taking-sides concept that pits Graham and I against each other on some of the more present and contentious issues in sports.

From our original introduction:

In the beginning The Rivalry, Esq. was about a single thing: two boorish undergraduates, sheltered and languid in their pursuit of knowledge, camped out at a college town imitation German pub: The Steinkeller.

Sometimes we would go on Thursdays, other times, Wednesdays -- sometimes once a week, other times twice or more -- and always for the same few truths: cold beer in fat mugs, and conflicting ideas about the nature of sport.

I've often cited Stanley Kubrick for the extopian idea that "If you can talk brilliantly enough about a problem, you can create the consoling illusion that it has been mastered." 

This is our attempt at mastery. Two guys. One a Wolverine. The other, a Buckeye. Taking sides on some of the more relevant issues in college football. We think football is a little bit like life. (Maybe we think too much). Still, we'd like to welcome you to take the concrete stairs down to that little basement bar. The floor is sticky. The beer is cold. And the conversation is real.

Welcome to The Rivalry.

Are Championship Blowout Losses Really a Bad Thing?

LAW BUCKEYE (LB).

GRAHAM FILLER (GF).

LB: Sports are irrational.  They feed off dominance and conquest.  We hold team allegiances because they're extensions of some side of us that wants to rule the world.  The game wouldn't be any fun if all your team did was kill everyone.  It's why playing with G.I. Joes started sucking about the time you turned seven.

GF: Unless you're UNC basketball.

LB: I'd bet even Tyler Hansbrough depends on the risk of loss -- the risk of failure to motivate himself to compete.  The point is sports are perception-based.  How we see ourselves (our team) in relationship to others, is central to our convictions.

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GF: The Big Ten, Jim Delany, and I disagree wholeheartedly.

LB: Why do we have apologists for the Big Ten then?

GF: Because people have to have something to grasp onto; there has to be an adversarial side, a battle.

LB: Exactly, and there's nothing more emasculating than feeling like you can't compete.

GF: But, making it to a place where you're earning your school $20 million dollars, isn't bad.  Michigan State's win over UConn was one of the biggest in the school's history.  People were running down Brush Street screaming f**k the Big East.  Who cares if they blew it on the biggest stage?  They got memories, money, and a solid reputation.  That's a one-hundred percent victory in my book.  Sometimes, wild things happen, the conference rakes in dough, and people walk away happy.

Here's a question.  Would you take a dominant Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, or a humbling loss to LSU in the BCS National Championship?

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LB: That's a tough one.  You want me to say I'd take the Oklahoma win -- but as a fan you should always root for your team to play for the highest stakes.  So, I'll take the LSU loss.

GF: I'm with you.

LB: But, there's a difference between that loss, and the one that proceeded it.  In 2006 we were outcoached and outclassed.  In 2007, we were simply outplayed.  For three quarters Ohio State was competitive.  And that's what appeals to our sensibilities as fans.  Win or lose you've got to compete.  That's why the Big Ten's present reputation (slow, antiquated) is so troubling to the Midwest.

GF: So you'd say the Big Ten was hurt by the UNC blowout?  What about Penn State/USC?  Ohio State/Florida?

LB: Michigan State, no.  Penn State, yes.  OSU, yes.  Let me explain.

After watching last night's game, no one doubts that North Carolina is far and away the best basketball club in the nation.  But, MSU had the right to play them.  They traveled arguably the most difficult road to the championship, burying a better-than-average 10 seed in USC, a Big Twelve Champion Kansas team, and two No. 1 seeds back-to-back from this year's "strongest" basketball conference (Big East).

When Ohio State went to the BCS National Championship in 2007 they got there because a complex series of algorithms let them fall in ass-backwards.  It's not a surprise, then, when they got outmatched, people suddenly called into question the strength of their pedigree.

GF: People know the foolishness of the BCS, people know the idiocy of those matchups, which is exactly why the losses don't matter.  All the Big Ten has to do to stay relevant is continue inserting itself into big money games, which of course -- thanks to its automatic bids -- will continue to happen. It's beautiful.

Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan are going to get back to winning big games and national titles.  This is just a bump in the road.

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LB: I disagree with your point that the losses don't matter because the system stinks.  However foolish, the BCS is what we've got.  It's the playing field -- and so however disjunctive, it's the rules teams have agreed to be bound by.  Without artificial limits competition wouldn't be fun.

Take handicaps in golf, for example.  Or imagine that there are no rules in college football.  Terrelle Pryor fumbles against PSU -- so he takes out a single-barrel shotgun and shoots Bowman in the head.  Bowman drops the football, Pryor picks it back up and the Bucks win the game.

Are you satisfied with that result?

GF: No one likes to lose, but it shouldnt leave such a bad taste in your mouth that you're saying the Big Ten sucks.  Our best teams are right there.  So what if they cant close the deal.  Football is cyclical.

LB: I think we might be arguing two sides of a different coin.  I agree with you that the conference will be just fine.

GF: Yeah, but you think the Big Ten has been wounded by big game losses.  I think it's a positive we even fell ass backwards into those games.

LB: Blowout losses negatively impact a league's reputation, and deflate its fanbase.  Take this year in bowls.  The Big Ten went 1-6, but it was mismatched in virtually every contest.

Now, suppose Ohio State doesn't receive an at large bid into the BCS.  The Buckeye's smash Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.  The Spartans sink South Carollina in the Outback.  Iowa outpowers Missouri in the Alamo.

And Wisconsin -- nevermind, they'd probably still get their ass kicked...

Anyway, you get the point.  It's a totally different bowl season.  Which brings us to a difficult philosophical question.  Would you rather have things the way they were (a 1-6 record), or have put one less team in the BCS, and been a far more competitive entity top to bottom?

I think reasonable people can disagree here.  But I also think we're closer to having the same belief than we think.

GF: Woah, that's a hard one, but I'm going with 1-6.  More money, more experience, more incentive to recruit, more naysayers.  Bring it on. 

LB: And, here's the shocking thing.  I agree.

GF: That was like the WWF, when they bring in the surprise -- and the Undertaker falls from the ceiling.

I really thought you would take the winning postseason.

LB: No way.  That's a slippery slope.  Once you say that you might as well say the Big Ten should move down to the FCS.  After all, we'd win a National Title every year there --

GF: As long as we can get past Applachian State.

LB: -- Why stop there?  Let's take the conference out of the NCAA entirely.  We'll make it a backyard, U10 flag football league -- where no one keeps score and everyone wins.

People who say a less virtuous slate of games might be better is all but throwing in the towel.  It would be like if Tom Izzo had beaten UConn and declined to advance to face the Tar Heels on the grounds he didn't want to end the year on a loss.

GF: Agreed again.

LB: So it looks like our motto is: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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