Sunrise, sunset, cue music. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
We never fell in love with anything because it would last forever or make sense. That's why we love college football, things that use vast amounts of fireworks for no reason, and really good television shows. What you call doomed, we call "mortal," and is more lovable for it.
The option is the illusion of permanence, something you would not want. If things were permanent, we would still be passing ten times a game. If they were permanent, we would have no night games, another thing that would be the ruination of college football along with the twelfth game, the BCS, most rules changes, conference realignment, the Bowl Coalition, Penn State joining a conference, Notre Dame having a bad decade and a half, and student-athletes being able to leave school early, and that whole thing about televising games.
None of them destroyed the game. We will watch it anyway because it is a stupid and welcome diversion from real life, a diversion with a perpetually corrupt underbelly reliant on free labor and the notion that you will show up no matter what--which, bitching as you drag your nails across the living room floor toward the television, you likely still will. It is literally the easiest thing in the world to proclaim the end of something. Figuring out the plot in continuation is the hardest. Look around at who's doing what, and you'll see who likes the easy work, and who likes the hard stuff.
What you mourn in the passage of a playoff could be a lot of things. You could mourn the argument, and if you mourn the argument you'll just find something else to argue, since you probably don't actually like football that much and have to make up these accessory playthings around it to keep you occupied. You could mourn the bowls, and if you do that you are literally beyond help, both because they will still be there in one form or another, and also because you are batshit crazy. You could mourn the "death of the innocence of college sports." No one can stop you from being naive and dumb. It's totally within your rights.
You could simply be mourning change. As cynical as we are, this is the one we'll respect the most. This is something changing, and change is hard, sad, and usually for the best only after you rewrite it. We mourn all sorts of stupid, useless things that no longer exist. We miss C.Y. Market barbecue sandwiches after school, Taiwanese breakfast crepes before going to work, and our grandfather. Those might be the only things we miss, ever, but even in the darkest corners of our heart we still miss them because in some small part, at one instant, they were ours in the past.*
*Another aside: this entire debate is a nostalgia test. We assume college football's always been structurally screwed, whereas somewhere in the past there's this point college football idealists have pinned as the ideal. We also never look at old photo albums, and think Plato was totally full of shit. We bet people who long for the days of the AP poll deciding everything love their old yearbooks, and love using the allegory of the cave in applicable and inapplicable discussion of issues.
We can't get too bent about the palace orders. Being a fan involves committing yourself to a degree of hopeless peasantry, and to a willing degree of fatalism, of helplessness. The sport will now have some kind of a way to crown a champion on the field. There will be more money, perhaps an embarrassing enough amount to start some real discussion of revenue sharing. Teams with weak schedules will have a harder time getting into the playoff, and will perhaps start scheduling games out of conference against quality competition.
That's "perhaps" because we don't know. As we said last night, this is slightly less dumb than the way we used to do it, where we settled feuds by pitting boxers against third parties and then guessing whether they would beat each other head-to-head. The identity of college football remains unchanged. USC fans still carry the banner for the oft-neglected West Coast. Alabamians woke up this morning and still genuflected to the scowling picture on the wall. Somewhere, a Boise State fan woke up pissed off, and probably should have been for football reasons. If a poll or lack of destroys any of this, you never liked the game. You liked talking about the game, something that has as much to do with football as masturbation does with sex.*
*Both have their utilities. One is decidedly more important than the other.
The strength of the game has always been its attachment to a place, a community, and a certain random way of doing things. It is about the game, and then the identity built around that. Iowa football, as far as we know, will never get into a moving van and set up shop as the Kentucky Hawkeyes. (If they did, they'd be the best football program in the history of the state, but still.) An NFL franchise chose its logo after intense marketing sessions and focus groups. Georgia Tech's started as a field-crasher, and ended as their symbol. Louisiana Tech's is named after the bravest, possibly apocryphal dog in football mascot history. Like a lot of things, these just sort of happened, like so much of the sport.
So there is a playoff, and it sort of has something to do with college football. It will make new problems, which make new problems, which in turn will make newer, even more exciting problems. When it dies--and it will--just as the BCS did, there will still be weird, corrupt, flawed, and ultimately ephemeral college football. If you liked something normal and permanent, you wouldn't be here in the first place. And if you think there's anything normal or lasting about anything in the sport besides the game and the places it lives, you're more doomed and mortal than most.
P.S. Now for fuck's sake, let's do and have football things.