Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Expanded CFP

The call for an expanded college playoff is getting louder in a few places, mostly in places where people feel that their team got robbed.

Okay, mostly in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

What has passed quietly by is the fact that every single one of the top eight teams had a chance to play their way in. In other words, we had an expanded playoff and all but one team has no complaints. And that team would have no complaints had they not lost to Pitt and Michigan (by 473 or something I think it was).

The top 4 (Alabama, Clemson, OSU, and Washington) made it in by winning games.

Take the next four in the previous CFP Poll.

#5 Michigan would have been a top four with a win at OSU. They lost. They don’t get to go on. You don’t get redos.

#6 Wisconsin played #7 Penn State. This is arguably the team that got robbed because the winner didn’t make it. My previous comments stand true that it had to be a big win, and it wasn’t. Of course, they lost to Pitt and lost bigly to Michigan. But they had a chance to play their way in and didn’t get it done.

#8 Colorado played Washington and lost. They don’t get to go on.

The consensus, correct I believe, is that the CFP got the best four teams. The teams that didn’t make it all have blemishes that prevented them from making it.

So an expanded playoff took place this year. It worked just like it should have.

There is also a renewed call for having to win your conference to get in to the CFP. This is mostly coming from Penn State, but others are chiming in as well.

Someone that I can’t recall pointed out last night that Penn State better be careful what they wish for. There is a good chance that they could go 11-1 next year with their only loss being a close game at OSU who goes on to win the B1G. I think that is the most likely scenario for next season for both teams.

And that means Penn State’s chance next year requires the ability for the committee to jump over conference champions for better teams.

In other words, the very thing Penn State wants now is the thing that will hang them next year.

I am mixed on both of these issues.

I go back and forth on whether an eight team playoff would be good. This year it worked out fine. Next year it might not.

I think an expanded playoff devalues the regular season. Michigan would have gone to OSU knowing it didn’t matter whether they won or lost; they were in either way most likely (even with the Iowa embarrassment). While a rivalry game is always big, it is less big when you don’t have to win to be the national champion.

An expanded playoff devalues the conference title games. Why play a game if all the conference winners get in anyway?

However, an eight-team playoff would give some room in seasons where teams don’t play each other, or where a deserving conference champion loses out.

Speaking of conference champions, I think there is a strong case to be made that you can’t be the national champion unless you are first a conference champion. And by and large, I think that is true. OSU should have won against Penn State, and perhaps would have except for a call or two that went against them. (Remember Meyer’s tirades about officiating? Yeah, me neither.) But OSU seems a better team than Penn State.

If the NCAA goes to an eight team playoff, perhaps they need to do away with conference title games.

In the end, college football is good because of the debates that take place. There will always be questions about whether Michigan, or Colorado, or Oklahoma, or Penn State could have beaten Clemson, or Ohio State, or Washington in a playoff. There might even be a few debates about whether any of these teams could beat Alabama. Those debates will mostly involve people too drunk to speak clearly.

In the end, we have the four best teams. Let’s line up and play football.

Friday, December 02, 2016

The College Football Playoff

The college football season is down to the end. Two weeks ago everything was a mess when the #2, 3, and 4 all lost the same weekend as Washington lost to USC, Clemson lost to Pitt on a last second field goal, and Michigan lost to Iowa on the same thing.

Now it’s the final weekend and the playoff picture has been significantly clarified in the past few weeks as Louisville and Michigan stumbled to the finish line.

Both were, at some point, considered among the top 4. Some thought Louisville was better than Clemson even though Clemson beat them. Louisville put that argument to bed when they got embarrassed at Houston.

Michigan was the best team in the country according to some, or at least the only team that could challenge Alabama. Then they lost to Iowa.

Yes, you read that right. Iowa.

Losing to Iowa isn’t the worst thing in the world.’ (Cough … Appalachian State … Cough). But it’s close when you are trying to stake a claim to a top 4 spot in the CFP.

Then Michigan lost to Ohio State, in a game that was essentially a playoff game:  You win and you are in; you lose and you are out. Michigan lost. They’re out.

There’s a lot of ways this could theoretically play out, but there’s only a few within the realm of legitimacy. So headed into the final weekend, here’s how I see it.

#1 Alabama plays #15 Florida for the SEC Championship tomorrow. With a win, ‘Bama is the #1 seed. With a loss, they might still be the #1 seed, that is if the world doesn’t come to an end. It is likely that there is a greater chance of the world ending than ‘Bama losing to Florida.

#2 OSU is idle. They have the strange benefit of not playing a conference championship which means they can’t lose. Given that, it will be hard to justify demoting by three spots (from #2 to #5) an 11-1 team that doesn’t lose, especially when that team is widely considered a top 4 team. 

#3 Clemson plays Virginia Tech. With a win they are in, probably at #3. A loss almost certainly eliminates Clemson (and the ACC) from the CFP, unless the world ends (see above), in which case there will be no CFP.

Now the hard work begins.

#4 Washington (11-1) plays #8 Colorado (10-2) for the Pac 12 Championship. If Washington wins, they have a strong claim. They most likely become the fourth team, unless they win close and the B1G championship between Wisconsin and Penn State is decisive. Then the B1G champ might pass over Washington.

#5 in the CFP rankings is Michigan. Michigan is out except in one narrow scenario (keep reading). They are out because they lost very badly to Iowa and then lost to OSU. For those who want an expanded playoff, remember Michigan went to Columbus knowing a CFP berth was on the line and they lost. That was essentially a playoff game. There was no margin for error. They had a chance to play their way to the next round and they didn’t get it done. Having lost the game that would have gotten them in, they have no legitimate call for a rematch. If OSU was their only loss, they might still have claim, but an extremely weak one. But they lost to Iowa. They will have a nice New Year’s trip somewhere. It just won’t be the CFP.

#6 and #7, Wisconsin and Penn State play for the B1G championship. Winner has a strong claim to the CFP if Washington loses. Otherwise, the winner ends up at #5 or #6 and out. Of course, Michigan beat both of these teams (Wisconsin in a close one and Penn State in a blowout). But Michigan is still the fourth place (maybe third if you want to argue about it) B1G team because they didn’t win the games when everything was on the line. You don’t lose to Iowa, finish third in your division, and still have a claim to be the best team in the country.

#8 Colorado only gets in with a decisive win over Washington, a close game between Wisconsin and Penn State, and a kind-hearted committee. 

No one else has a shot.

So here’s my final call:

Alabama wins and is the #1 seed. OSU is idle and is the #2 or #3 seed. Clemson wins and stays #3 unless they win big in which case they might be #2. (#2 and #3 don’t matter since they play each other.) Washington wins and they are #4.

Now the “If”s.

If Washington loses a close one, a decisive winner of Wisconsin-Penn State gets in as the B1G champ.

If Colorado wins decisively over Washington and Wisconsin-Penn State is close and ugly, Colorado gets in at #4 as the Pac 12 champ.

“Wait,” you say, “Michigan beat Colorado.”

True. That’s the nightmare scenario for the committee. But here’s the question: Do you take a fourth place team in their conference over a conference champion in another conference even though the conference champion lost head to head? I don’t know. Football wise, probably.

But do you take a fourth place team over a conference champion in their own conference? I don’t see how.

So the B1G winner gets in over Michigan unless there is a total disaster in Indianapolis. Yes, Michigan beat them both, but championships matter to the committee.

My guess is that scenario remains purely hypothetical. Michigan’s only chance is that Colorado wins narrowly over Washington, Wisconsin-Penn State is an embarrassment in a close, low-scoring game, and the committee wants to avoid being harangued mercilessly by Michigan fans who apparently don’t think regular season games count for much. If so, the committee slides a two-loss Michigan team into the #4 slot over their own conference champ and over the Pac 12 conference champ. That’s a tall order.

In the end, I think ‘Bama, Clemson, and Washington win in a fairly decisive manner and the top four remain as they are right now.

If this plays out this way, and all remains as it is healthwise for these teams, I think Alabama beats Washington and Clemson beats OSU in a relatively close game. Then I think we have a rematch of last year’s title game.

If it doesn’t play out this way, forget I ever said it.

We will see on Sunday.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

A Primer on Christmas Shopping

Christmas is a time of giving … and getting. The older we get, it is likely that we become less concerned about getting. We probably enjoy giving more than getting, particularly to our children to see their joy.

Gift giving can be a wonderful thing and a token of our love for those around us. It can help us to enjoy the life that God has given to us. But there are some cautions we must be aware of.

First, gift giving can feed idolatry. At the heart of Christmas lists can be greed, a desire for what we do not have. There is nothing wrong with wanting something we do not have. There is something wrong with allowing our desires to become idols. After Christmas, the inevitable if unspoken comparisons take place. The Bible says that greed is a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). A sign in the national park says, “Don’t feed the bears.” Perhaps a sign at the toy store should say, “Don’t feed the idols.”

Second, gift giving can expose the recipient to danger. 1 Timothy 6 warns about the dangers that accrue from a love of money and a desire to get rich. It reminds us that this world is temporary (you can’t take it with you, v. 6) and the joy “stuff” brings only last for a while. It reminds us that “stuff” brings temptation and snare which plunge men into ruin and destruction. It causes people to wander from the faith and pierce themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:7-11). So don’t think of that gift as the next best and greatest thing. Think of it as a bomb, waiting to go off and drive the recipient away from the faith.

Third, gift giving can attach the recipient to a dying world. The more stuff we have, and the nicer stuff we have, the more attached we are to it. Most of us past the age of three or four aren’t attached to the paper wrapping and the bows. We want that gone. But we might get attached to what was in the paper. Many people help others lay up treasures on earth, and as a result strengthen the ties to earth. As Jesus said, “Where your treasure it, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). That is why he says, “Lay up your treasure in heaven … not on earth.”

Fourth, gift giving can decrease sacrifice for missions. When Jesus called us, he called us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23). He calls us to leave things from his sake and the gospel’s sake (Mark 10:30). It is hard to preach sacrifice to people who judge Christmas by the pile of stuff under the tree. It is hard to preach sacrifice to people who do not want to leave their stuff.

Gift giving is not bad. It is not sinful. God both gives good gifts and commands us to give them.

But we should be aware of their dangers. We must work to cultivate a heart of contentment and satisfaction and a life of commitment and sacrifice.

So in this season of gift giving, be loving and generous. And be cautious. Do not doom your loved ones to idolatrous and dangerous attachment that may decrease their sacrifice for the gospel.

Now get out there and finish that Christmas shopping

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

It’s Over and It’s Trump

It’s over. For a day or two at least. Trump is now President-Elect. It’s the first time we have elected a showman with a poor grasp of policy since 2012. This won’t happen again until at least 2020.

Look for a few people to announce their candidacy for the 2020 presidential election in the next few days. Until then, enjoy a few days of political relief.

Trump has apparently won the presidency. I say “apparently” because there will be likely be charges of rigging and voter fraud. Ironically it will come from the party that says this stuff doesn’t exist.

The outcome was surprising to many. Neither outcome would have been surprising to me. The surprise would have been a good showing by a third party candidate, but there was no third party candidate with the stuff to make more than a whimper.

The evangelicals showed up and taught us a few things in no particular order:

Evangelicals are a crazy mixed up bunch. From all the pietistic warnings and judgments passed down across the spectrum, one could be forgiven for thinking that Jesus indeed wasn’t returning and had left his job to the evangelical constituency that was determined to separate the sheep from the goats in the voting booth.

There is barely enough room in the voting booth for one person. Once all the moralizers, do-gooders, nay-sayers, prophets, and apostles crowded in, it was hard to mark the ballot clearly. They kept jostling my elbow while I was trying to color inside the lines.

I have to say that evangelicals picked a strange time to grow a conscience. After years of Haggard (Ted not Merle), MacDonald (James not Old), Osteen (got nothing for you here), Hinn, Swaggart, and Driscoll, the businessman-turned-politician who once owned Miss Universe (where women are degraded into sexual objects prancing in as little as network TV will allow them to) Trump is what finally crosses the line?

Perhaps the most stunning thing is that we now know there is a line. Of course, it’s hard to see the line amidst all the muck and manure we had to parade around in for the last two years. But it’s still a line. Somewhere. For some.

I am not saying evangelicals shouldn’t have grown a conscience. I am just saying it seems like a strange time since the alternative was Hillary Clinton rather than Matt Chandler. Even John Piper flipped compared to 2012.

We have no reason to believe in a bright future for evangelicalism at large. I am not saying that’s a dealbreaker, by the way.

This election saw evangelicals on one side proclaiming a vote for anyone but Trump was a vote for the end of America. They could barely be heard over the evangelical voices on the other side crying out that voting for Trump was the end of America and of morality.

And then of course you could hear the sovereigntists, those who reminded us of the sovereignty of God over all things, proclaiming it didn’t matter who you voted for (as long as it wasn’t Trump or Clinton) or if you voted at all because God appoints kings and rulers and is in charge of it. It seems a strange take on God’s sovereignty, what with the reams of binders full of evidence of God working his sovereign will through human choices.

There was a strain of evangelicals claiming that world relief for the oppressed (i.e., taking in refugees apparently without vetting) was the key issue and that those who weren’t in favor of open borders and open boarders were on the verge of denying the gospel. Of course, there was never much theological or political interaction about this. It was mostly an emotional appeal about oppressed people. And these folks never told us how the gospel was lived out in the days before immigration. It’s a conversation we should have. But we should actually have the conversation rather than just tweet platitudes and pictures about it.

There was also a strain of evangelicals who pointed out that Christians all over the world and all throughout history had suffered and now it was our turn. These seemed to ignore the fact that Christians all over the world and through history had not suffered politically and, given our political system, that was something we enjoy. I never saw anyone make the case why we should do as much as we can to sign up for political persecution, or sit back while someone else signed us up for it. It seems to me that wisdom allows us to use our earthly citizenry to pray for peaceable relations and even to work for them. In fact, I recall something from the Bible about that in 1 Timothy 2:1-2. If we are commanded to pray for it, then we are certainly allowed to vote for it.

In the end, this election was an absolute disaster. It’s a testament to the sad state of our country that, in a nation with over three hundred million people (that’s 300,000,000) these are the two people we came up with (or should that be, “with which we came up”?).

There has been no politician so corrupt as Clinton running for a major office since, well, ever. She makes Kwame Kilpatrick and Richard Nixon look good, and that’s a major achievement. Rod Blagojevich is disappointed he didn’t run for president. It might have turned out better for him.

Likewise, there has been no one so uncontrolled and arrogant as Donald Trump since, well, ever. At least Roy Hobbs backed it the bravado with a homerun in the light pole and a refusal to take the money. Trump will likely not do anything so amazing.

On the upside, look for a new era of bipartisanship as both parties in Congress oppose Trump. Look for Democrats to celebrate obstructionism and to reject executive action. It will be a welcome change from that side of the aisle.

Ironically, the two people that would have been a really interesting race (Biden and Romney) both declined to run and probably both regret it since either one of them would have been an ‘84 type landslide.

The GOP is set up well for 2020. They can legitimately claim they didn’t like Trump and offer an alternative.

The Democrats have no such room. Clinton was their anointed pick and they own her and everything that comes with her. Rest easy though. They (like most politicians) have no shame. They will quickly defend whatever they can and whitewash the rest of it, no matter how preposterous it might sound to both normal people who are left in this country.

I am just disappointed there will be no free college education. My kids will need it cuz I ain’t paying for ‘em to go.

Speaking of 2020, I know you are all interested but I am still in the decision making process. Over the next few days, my friends and family and I will be getting together and decided whether or not I will throw my hat in the ring for 2020.

Until then, get some sleep and drink a little wine for your stomach’s sake. In fact, perhaps drink a lot. You might need it.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Nothing Makes the News

Colin Kaepernick sat down for the playing of the national anthem in a preseason NFL game. He upgraded to kneeling in a second one. A few others have followed his lead.

And it’s news.

Why?

I am not sure. It’s nothing.

No, really. It’s nothing.

He sat down during a song in which it is traditional to stand. People have sat down before and people will do it again.

This is the biggest nothing since a gold-medal winning young lady didn’t put her hand over her heart for the national anthem.

At least she was standing up.

Undeterred by the common sense of priority and reality, the news media is making a big deal out of Kaepernick. It’s a $100 worth of news coverage on a twenty-five cent story. The reason is simple: The story is about Colin Kaepernick, not what Kaepernick says it should be about.

Kaepernick says did it to protest injustice that takes place under the American flag. He said that while being oppressed to the tune of millions of dollars which he will not earn by playing since he won’t be starting.

That means he will be sitting a lot. On one hand, I suppose he is getting in midseason form by sitting down. On the other hand, he has done nothing for the cause he claims to be concerned about.

In a moment of irony he surely missed, he showed up at a news conference to protest oppression while wearing a shirt with Fidel Castro’s picture on it. Protesting oppression alongside a Cuban dictator. Ironic!

On second thought, that’s not irony. It’s way past irony.

But I digress.

Here’s the big problem: No one is talking more about injustice than they were last month. Instead, they are talking about Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who has nothing to complain about.

All he accomplished was to spark a debate about how important it is to stand up for the national anthem and whether or not employers should mandate it.

Let Kaepernick sit down if he wants to. The flag and anthem he used to protest is what enables him to protest.

But if you want to do something about injustice, then get up off your seat. Sitting down while you make millions in on the back of a free college education isn’t exactly being Jackie Robinson. Or Martin Luther King, Jr. These days it’s not even being Doug Williams. (ICYDK, Williams was the first black quarterback to win an NFL league championship and Super Bowl.)

If you want to do something about injustice, it will take more than sitting down during the national anthem of an NFL preseason game. You are going to have to talk about real issues.

Let’s start with the fact that thousands of African-Americans are denied the basic justice of life itself every day. It’s called abortion. The Democrats stand firmly behind this systematic extermination of the black community. They won’t lift a finger to stop it. Instead, they are doing everything they can to prolong and protect this extermination. Republicans are scarcely much better. It helps to get them elected, but that’s about it. There’s no one speaking up much for the unborn. And Kaepernick didn’t change that.

Let’s continue with the fact that thousands of African-American children have no father in their home or even in their life. The government has become their daddy, doling out the basic needs of life while letting men have sex without consequences. Why should they care? They get to do their thing with their honey for the night (who may not be their honey tomorrow night), and they have a rich uncle (Uncle Sam, that is) that will take care of the few who make it long enough to see the light of day over the machinations of Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Party. Kaepernick’s sit-down didn’t spark any conversation about fatherhood. That’s ironic given the fact that Kaepernick was adopted and raised by two white people because his own father fled and left a single mother. If anyone knows, it should be Kaepernic.

How about the fact that thousands of African-Americans will suffer in substandard schools because the government forces them to stay there rather than giving them true school choice. And their parents don’t care enough or don’t have enough leverage to force change. Those kids will live in bad neighborhoods and go to bad schools. And some of them will end up like a young man a few blocks away from here who, a couple of weeks ago at the ripe old of age of fourteen, was paralyzed for life by a gunshot to the neck. Now the state of Michigan has decided that failing schools don’t have to close until 2019, meaning three more years of failing education for kids with all the results that come with it. Kaepernick’s seat on the sidelines won’t give these kids a new seat in the schoolroom. They are consigned to failure with no alternatives.

We haven’t even talked about the fact that thousands of African-Americans will have no mentors who will teach them there is a better way. No one will teach them how to work, how to shake hands, how to dress and talk appropriately, how to be a husband and a dad (in that order). There will be no women to help the young ladies learn to respect their bodies and their future, to get an education, to learn how to nurture children, and pick a good man and stay with him for life. Almost none of them will get a free ride to play football or basketball, or anything else. The only free ride they might get is in the back of a squad car. Kaepernick isn’t provoking anyone to talk about how to mentor the young people.

Kaepernick’s sit down isn’t sounding the message that a black person’s chances of being killed by the police are between slim and none, and none is a lot closer than slim when you do what you are told, even if you think it is unjust. There’s a place to fight police brutality and systemic racism. But you can’t do it from a casket. Kaepernick’s sit-down isn’t getting people to talk about that.

You see, this is simple: Sitting down for the national anthem won’t address any actual problems. And even if it got people talking about it, it won’t change anything because talk never does.

We don’t need more talk about it. Round tables simply go around. We need action. We need serious people with serious solutions. We need people who will get past the rhetoric and the talking points and start looking for things that work.

We need people who will move in to communities, coach ball teams, get involved in the local schools, hang out and play basketball with kids on the street, and talk straight to them when they need it.

We are past the point where sitting down for an anthem while preparing to make a few million playing a game will make much of a statement.

We need more. Stand up Colin. Do something meaningful. It won’t make the news. But it might make a difference.