The Janus-faced Nature of American Sports

While many in our society are in the process of preparing Bûche de Noël among other delicacies, contestations occurred moments following the announcement of this season’s College Football Playoff participants. The nature of these debates ranged from the legitimacy of Ohio State making it into the semifinals after only playing six games to the University of Cincinnati Bearcats not being granted ingress after finishing their undefeated season.

            Of course, the old familiar refrain of expanding the playoff field once the current contract ends began to dominate the discussion as being the panacea of all that ails the FBS. Naïve college football fans believe the ben trovato of additional teams added to the field will open the path for Coastal Carolina, Cincinnati, and others instead of the blue bloods that comprise programs from the Power Five conferences.

            The economic realities of the American system make ratings the essential component of the CFP. That being said, a matchup between Alabama and Cincinnati may lose its charm if the Crimson Tide scores 50 plus points against the Bearcats in a semifinal contest. In reality, Alabama just might score half of a hundred on any opponent regardless.

            When you have to depend upon sufficient advertisers to meet their financial obligations, it decreases the probability of non-traditional powers being selected for the playoffs if Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, or USC are in the mix. Teams nicknamed the Chanticleers, Bearcats, or Golden Hurricane do not have a certain je sais quoi like the typical heavyweights.

            In fairness, we cannot blame the CFP Committee solely for these inequities because of our duplicitous nature of talking inclusion until competition does not yield the kind of result that we desire. The Power Five conference teams will continue to vie for championship payouts that are necessary to help fund other sports that are struggling because of reduced budgets caused by the pandemic.

            Non-traditional football programs also have the deck stacked against them due to weaker schedules from the competition that they face in their conferences. Therefore, these types of programs will have to virtually be undefeated multiple seasons with the hope of defeating a Power Five team in their non-conference matchups during the regular season. Since rosters change annually and non-conference schedules are made years in advance, the odds are against the MAC, AAC, et cetera to sustain a level of excellence of this magnitude for this duration.

            Nonetheless, having a system that is equitable for most programs regardless of conference affiliation (or independent) is a plummy aspiration in American college football. It is just unfortunate that the financial structure is such that it makes inclusion a bit more challenging than some may want to admit.

A Certain Level of Obdurateness is Necessary for Public Stances

According to the Associated Press, there was a smattering of boos in Toyota Stadium (Frisco, Texas) last night during the national anthem for the match between FC Dallas and Nashville SC as players from both teams knelt in peaceful protest. Consequently, Reggie Cannon, Dallas FC defender, took exception to the hearing of the Bronx cheer by some fans.

            Cannon expounded further on his displeasure of the unexpected sounds of raspberries by stating, “The players had asked that [the anthem] not be played before the game because they didn’t feel it was right for [it] to be played in this moment.” Cannon’s overweening response failed to take into account the fact that a certain level of obdurateness is necessary for public stances, especially in the presence of those who may be classified by others as the rearguard. Did he believe that the national anthem would just fade into oblivion?

            A degree of democracy operated successfully because the patrons who may have still wanted to hear the national anthem were allowed to do so, and the athletes had their moment to kneel in commemoration of the atrocities in the deaths of George Floyd and others simultaneously. The most underrated aspect of this narrative is the fact that there were no acts of violence as a result.

            In general, any athlete who expects a majority to recognize his/her point of view and have them respond with an esemplastic reaction by suddenly singing Kumbaya is quite unrealistic. There is still going to be a delay in the period of understanding for the reasons outlined by athletes in peaceful demonstrations whether the anthem is played or not. Also, some athletes have to be prepared for the realization that some individuals are just unwilling to ever be enlightened by the causes of others.

Nevertheless, total agreement is not an essential ingredient for civility amongst citizens of a nation. It is not too much to ask for fans in any stadium or arena to be urbane despite what may occur in the field of play. Of course, governance of these organizations and athletes have to realize that fans do have the option not to patronize sporting events no matter how limited attendance may be during a pandemic to voice their displeasure.

In conclusion, history should serve as a reminder of how perspectives can change over time. Muhammad Ali probably did not imagine going from exile for his stance during the Sixties to having the honor to light the flame of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Sacrifice was a better-understood concept in that era compared to the few moments of feeling uncomfortable by a few individuals who may endure today.