Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

So there's some news out today that the BCS will be releasing its rankings on Sunday now instead of Monday. Another terrible idea from the morons who run the BCS.

I've written before that I'm no fan of polls in general, but they aren't going anywhere (at least for the next decade or so until there's another TV contract). So the goal for everyone should be to make the polls better - more reliable, more reasonable, more informed. Not among those things that make polls better is speed of release.

Yes, we're an instant culture. We like our news fast, even if it's incorrect. We like our food served before the drive thru window clock hits 60, even if that means the Whopper is microwaved and the bun tastes like a wet sponge. Football is no different. We like our recruits VHT and starting early, even if that means supplanting an all-conference starter. We like our coaches performing, even if they aren't even starting their own recruits. And yes, when we all wake up Sunday mornings, we all kind of like finding out how many spots up in the polls our favorite teams have moved, even before we've scanned the ticker for the results of the late games.

But faster isn't better on polls. In fact, it's much much much much much worse.

Polls are flawed in a bunch of ways. The two BCS polls are, in a least offensive way possible, a total freaking joke. The Coaches' Poll is composed of individual voters which (1) have financial incentives to vote particular ways; (2) have personal and professional relationships (good and bad) with coaches on other teams; (3) have personal biases in favor of particular schools and conferences; (4) are not equally distributed throughout the nation in terms of geography, conference, size of program; and (5) HAVE A FREAKING JOB TO DO ON SATURDAY THAT PREVENTS THEM FROM WATCHING THE GAMES! Seriously. Coaches go from preparations for their games, to coaching the games, to a series of press conferences and interviews, to the filming of the coach's show, to reviewing film of the game, to the hospital or training room to check up on injured players, to preparations for the next week's game, etc. Coaches have little time to check the ticker for the other games, let alone actually watch enough of them to have an informed opinion on 25+ teams in the nation. We all know some guy in the SID office is filling out the poll instead, but THOSE GUYS ARE WORKING ON SATURDAYS TOO! They're on the field, in the press box, or running logistics for the team. They're not watching many games either. And the Coaches' Poll doesn't seem to want them to actually watch games. The Harris Poll is not really very different. Voters in that poll are often active fundraisers for programs, former legends from programs, and sometimes recently or currently employed by programs they're supposed to be voting on. They have the same biases (or worse) as the coaches. Maybe Harris Poll voters might have more time to watch games than the coaches, but does anyone think that these guys are actually watching 40-50 games every weekend? These guys are legends for programs and often still closely aligned. They're going to the games for their schools. There's no doubt in my mind that the coaches and the Harris voters are doing very very little personal review of games. Maybe they scanned the newspaper or caught GameDay Final and saw highlights of the last week's Top 25. They were not watching the games.

And thanks to today's news, voters can watch even less.

See, if the BCS cared about getting polls right - and having their voters actually informed, they'd delay the rankings' release, not bring it out earlier. Well, first, they'd remove any voters who can't watch the games. But if they even wanted to maintain the illusion that voters might actually spend some time watching games, they'd hold off for a few days. Maybe let the voters watch tapes of the games, or read an article about them. Or even see extended highlights. Or let them even go to sleep and wake up and watch SportsCenter on Sunday. As is now, the polls are due early Sunday morning, released by mid-afternoon. No time whatsoever to watch even a couple of games if you have something else to do on Saturday.

And anyway, what's the rush? As long as the BCS comes out before the next week's games, maybe before Thursday, what difference does it make? Why do we want to see the polls come out before the NFL games? I for one would prefer to have these polls, which affect bowl selections and the conferring of titles (unfortunately), actually based on some research. Maybe if the voters had the ability and time to watch some other games, the flaws in some teams might be spotted. Or the teams that weren't pegged pre-season but have come out playing great might be spotted and ranked early enough to make a difference come the end of the season.

I just don't get the rush. I prefer quality to speed when it comes to this. Of course, I prefer scrapping the whole system of crowning a champion via a biased, underinformed oligarchy. So maybe I'm crazy.