The Next Gripe in College Football

College football fans complain.

For the past 14 years, they’ve complained about the BCS. They’ll still complain about the BCS for another year or two, but after the 2014 season, college football will have a playoff. (Specifically the FBS, but will the names Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Division continue to make sense if the FBS has a playoff?)

So fans will have nothing left to complain about. Because the system will be perfect. Right?

Hold that thought.

This year, in the NFL, the NFC’s North division has three teams with ten or more wins. Pretty good. Green Bay went 11-5, and Minnesota and Chicago both finished 10-6. Minnesota went to the playoffs because it had a better division record than Chicago. (The second tiebreaker, after head to head, which Minnesota and Chicago split.) Fair enough.

Now let’s imagine that The NFC North has a championship game. Assuming the same math and tiebreakers that the NFL uses to determine playoff participants, Green Bay would play Minnesota.

Let’s imagine further that Green Bay beats Minnesota. Green Bay’s record improves to 12-5, still good enough to win the division. Minnesota’s record drops to 10-7, which happens to be percentage points behind’s Chicago’s 10-6 record.

Based on record, Chicago is now ahead of Minnesota, and takes the sixth playoff spot.

Doesn’t make any sense, right? Minnesota had a better division record than Chicago and should therefore go to the playoffs. And besides — why the heck is the NFC North playing a championship game? The NFL playoffs decide the Superbowl winner, and that’s what really matters.

Thankfully, this is a hypothetical scenario, and we don’t have to worry about it. But it’s going to be a real problem in the 2014 FBS season.

The SEC of 2012 was as close as you can come to the hypothetical NFC North laid out here, except there was no playoff to decide a national champion. Georgia finished ahead of Florida in the regular season, played Alabama in the SEC championship game, lost, then lost its spot in a NCS bowl to Florida. Bowls care about polls and ranks instead of tiebreakers. You say tomato, I say … tomato.

If a four team playoff had been in place for the season that just ended, the teams would have been Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, and Oregon. What about Georgia? Left out in the cold by virtue of finishing ahead of Florida in the regular season? We can only assume that if Florida had finished ahead of Georgia in the SEC East (perhaps Florida lost to South Carolina and beat Georgia, and Georgia beat South Carolina), the Gators would have gone on to have a letdown performance against Alabama in the SEC Championship game, and Georgia — capable of going down to the wire against the eventual national chamption — might have beaten Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.

The fact is, unless a playoff has zero wild card teams, it is incompatible with conference championship games. If a playoff is to guarantee the participation of the two best teams, it needs a wild card. That means the conference championship games — some of which are only two years old — are already vestigial.

Some people will not warm to the playoff and will likely hold up the conference championships as an alternative. Some, like me, see the obvious benefits of a playoff to determine the national champion. Either way, the conference championships and the playoff conflict with each other. And that is the next gripe in college football.

Dear ESPN.com: Your Article Layout Sucks!

Hey, ESPN.com.

We’ve known each other a long time.  We started spending a lot of time together in college.  You’ve gone through several redesigns in that time.  Heck, I even blogged about some of them.  But lately, I’m not feeling it.

Here’s the thing.  Your article layout sucks.  Take a look at what I’m talking about:

Click to Embiggen
Click to Embiggen

See the smallest column, over there on the left?  That’s the text of the article.  The second column is a sidebar.  The third column is a statbox.  The fourth column, which is empty, runs the length of the page but is only occupied near the top, with an advertisement.

Note that on several lines, only two words fit in the first column, and on one line, only a single word fits.  And this is just one screen’s worth of one article.  It’s so painful that it makes the article unreadable.

Here’s my suggestion:  Change the article layout so that it has two columns of equal width.  The first column contains the body of the article, and is untouchable.  Nothing may encroach upon it.  The second column can contain anything else — advertisements, sidebars, statboxes, whatever.

A second option might be to take inspiration from the iPhone version of ESPN.com.  Let’s take a look:

ESPN.com for iPhone Screenshot

We’ve got an ad, the section header, the score header, then hey — what’s this?  It’s a pseudo-tabular nav header.  We could apply this to the main site!  Solve the layout problem by hiding elements (additional analysis, links, stats) until the reader wants to see them.  If we were to scroll down on the iPhone site, we’d see that for the entire length of the article, it occupies the full width of the browser window.  No element encroaches upon the article’s space.  In this respect, the article is easier to read on my phone than it is on my computer.  Not only that, but the layout of the article on my computer — at its narrowest point — is not as wide as the layout of the article on my iPhone.  That’s measured in characters or inches, take your pick.

So, ESPN.com, I still really like you, but you’ve got to work on this stuff.  Or what?  Or else, that’s what.

Comcast Offers Upgraded Service to Customers, Anticipates Loss of NFL Network

Today I received an envelope in the mail from Comcast.  It was addressed to “Comcast Customer” and through the window in the envelope I could see the words “Important update re: your programming.”

I expected it to be a procedural letter of minimal importance, but I opened it anyway.  At the top of the letter there was some more text: “POSSIBLE NFL NETWORK CHANGES.”  If you haven’t read about it in the news, Comcast (abd I believe all of the cable companies) are in disagreement with the NFL over whether NFL Network is a premium channel or a basic channel, how much the NFL should charge the cable operators, and how much the operators should charge customers for the channel.

Also from the letter: “The NFL Network may stop providing its programming to Comcast on May 1, 2009.”

Because of this, the letter offers me Starz free for 12 months, or an Internet speed upgrade free for 12 months.  Starz isn’t bad, but it only offers one HD channel, so I went with the speed upgrade.

When the NFL Network started showing live NFL games, I added a package to my Comcast service so that I could see it.  I wonder if this offer has been extended to all Comcast customers, or only those who currently pay to have the NFL Network as part of their service.

Colts – Patriots

The New England Patriots are 6-1 and the Indianapolis Colts are 7-0.  And they play each other next weekend.  Can you say, “game of the week?”

Does anyone else think these two teams should be required to play each other once every regular season?

Prime Time Football

The theme song portion of both NBC’s Sunday Night Football and ESPN’s Monday Night Football are similar:  They both portray a fictitious football stadium in the middle of a city.  Even though NBC has Pink (and I stare at her prominently displayed chest through the whole song), it’s better.  ESPN’s theme song ‘video collage’ is awful.  Afraid to choose one team to represent the show every week, a nonexistant team with blue jerseys and white helmets (not quite the throwback Chargers) is shown.  It’s ugly.  They almost look like the Steelers — why not just go with last year’s Super Bowl champ?  countless video games have gone that route.  Every football fan would see a Steelers uniform before the game and — regardless of the Steelers’ record — would know exactly why ESPN picked that team to play out the intro every week.

Instead, ESPN went with the fake team and bad CGI special effects.  Helmets appearing over a guy’s head, followed by the facemask?  It all sort of looks like goop, and none of it looks good.  One guy gets that (ugly-ass) giant, silver and black Motorola coach’s headset.  It does the same thing:  manifests out of the ether.  Still looks like goop.

Yes, NBC’s Pink makes me cringe a little, but ESPN’s intro makes me groan.

Baseball

It’s June 25th.

I’m reading an article about Johnny Damon and the New York Yankees. Jeter. A-Rod. Randy Johnson. Giambi. Bernie Williams. Scheffield.

I drive home at night and I crack the moonroof to let some fresh air in. It smells — just a little bit — warm.

I throw shorts on when I get home. I walk outside. Some trees are flowering. Pinks, and a few greens. There’s a hint of pollen in the air.

I think about baseball. I think about sitting in a ballpark on a balmy night, humidity in the air, a light mist visible in the lights. I think about peanuts, and beer, and waiting for the next pitch.

I sit at home, at my computer. I hear aluminum bats making contact across the street at the baseball park at Oglethorpe University.

It’s February 27th. Baseball will be here soon. Summer will be here soon.

Boom?

I watched SportsCenter after the Raiders-Chargers game tonight, and about ten seconds into “Plays of the Week,” Chris Berman stopped and said, “Let me do it again.” On live television. So the visuals switched to the “coming up on SportsCenter” sequence and Karl Ravich did the voice-over for it. Then about ten minutes later Chris Berman did the plays of the week like nothing happened.

Did anyone else see this and/or think it was strange?