Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong."

Yeah, so about that trial balloon. Consider that the optimist in me, and a naive one at best.

So, where does that leave us?

Brian has the roundup of everything you need to get caught up to speed on this matter (the Bucknuts piece is very much worth the read), but as I read, my mind wandered and I was struck by this (slightly modified) notion:

"We of the [Big Ten] administration who participated in the decisions on [divisional alignment] acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this [conference]. We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why."

That is a modified version of the opening of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's 1995 book In Retrospect where he examined the decision making that went on during the Vietnam War in the highest levels of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. What has always struck me about this (and McNamara's later comments in The Fog of War) is that rarely do people who are making decisions think "I am making a terrible decision, but I am going to continue to do so, because I love making terrible decisions." There are reasons, and people believe they are good reasons, and it is sometimes only when it is too late to see the folly.

I guess what makes me sad is that there's no good way to do this, when you think about it:

1). Michigan and Ohio State in the same division

Pro: They would still play at the end of the season. In 9 of the last 13 seasons, it is likely that the outcome of the Game would have decided the division winner.

Con: They would not still play for the right to go to the Rose Bowl/BCS/What have you.

2). Michigan and Ohio State in different divisions, play the last game of the regular season.

Pro: They would still play at the end of the season.

Con: The game might have little to no impact on who plays in the Championship game, and if it does, it sets up a potential rematch the next week, which diminishes the value of the product.

3). Michigan and Ohio State in different divisions, play at some other point in the season.

Pro: Makes a potential Big Ten championship game between Michigan and Ohio State more appealing to television. Con: Ends 75 years of tradition. Diminishes the meaning of "The Game".

So, they'll, of course, do #3, because they'll see the revenue projections and they'll say "We'd be stupid NOT to do this. Look at the money." Meanwhile, a little part of the soul of every Big Ten fan dies. They try to make it better by introducing new rivalries, or convincing you that it's better this way, but you're not stupid, you know better. You know that playing Michigan State on Thanksgiving weekend is not only wrong, but that it actually benefits Michigan State because they actually get their Michigan obsessed existence justified. Ohio State, meanwhile, is playing Penn State or Nebraska in the final game of the season, and it's a good game, and people are interested, but it's not the same. It's like Coca-Cola Classic. Because you no longer have the real thing, you now have to accept the imitation that's close to the original, but just doesn't taste the same.

In other places, there are people who don't get it, who don't understand why this matters, and why we're making such a big deal about it. The rest of college football has changed, the Big Ten should be no different. But please be understanding if some of us feel like something that matters to us is dying. And life will go on, and we'll get through, but we will miss it, and we will be sad when we look back on what once was and what went away because of decision makers who thought they were doing what was in the best interest of the conference. And perhaps down the line some say, Jim Delany, or someone of his ilk, will come back and say "We were wrong, terribly wrong" or something similar, and it won't make us feel better, because it won't bring back what we have lost.

There's still time, there's still a chance, there's still ways to make your voice heard. I encourage you to do what you need to do to make yourself feel like you have made a difference. Even if it doesn't end up making a difference in the end. You'll be like General Winfield Scott Hancock in Gods and Generals, reviewing General Burnside's plan for the assault on Mayre's Heights behind Fredricksburg in 1862 via pontoon boat.

"No, general, we'll meet them head on. And it will be a bloody mess. We'll march up to that hill there, and we'll eat their artillery fire all the way across this field. And when it's over, we'll be able to look at ourselves and say: "We're good soldiers. We did what we were told." If we're not successful, we can say it was a good plan, but there were contingencies. You can go back to your hometown and tell the families of your men they died doing their duty."

1 comment:

Brian D said...

I say that choice 1 is still the best option. Is playing for a 6 team division really that much worse than playing for the Big Ten title when it was the Big Two and little eight?