It’s Texas vs. So. Cal for title, or stuff the BCS ratings

Oct 25, 2005 4:52 AM

For openers, let the record read that Texas, not Southern California, is the number one college football team in America. You may not have heard it here first, but you’re hearing it now, loud and clear.

You’ll also forgive us, I trust, for my not being as enthused or hyperventilating as the starved baseball fiends of my former hometown. Chicago has lived in the shadow of New York for so long — unjustly in many cases — that it has a complex as big as the Sears tower. It still feels guilty about the Black Sox of 1919, and famished after a World Series starvation diet lasting 88 years, so the denizens can be excused for allowing this intoxicating moment to warp their better judgment.

One nice thing the White Sox 9-1 postseason record has done is unite the city. Chicago in modern times has been divided into two camps, one north of its famed Loop and the other south. You could not live in Chicago and root for both the White Sox and Cubs. Mayors Daley, I and II, and tradition would not allow it.

Suddenly, everyone from Evanston on the north to Hammond and Gary on the south to Aurora on the west is a White Sox fan, buying T-shirts and caps and brassieres and anything else that might be imprinted with the Sox logo in prodigious quantities. It’s a touching scene. Civic pride always is a welcome sight.

The Sox followers, and their newly found Cubs cohorts, cannot be excused, however, for getting as excited as they are about baseball, one of the dullest games to watch in the entire spectrum of sports.

If you get thrilled about guys spitting, adjusting their jocks, looking for absurd coaching signs, appearing scraggly and ragged and unshaven and unkempt, stepping in and out of the batter’s box, wetting their pitching fingers, adjusting their caps, hanging over the dugout rail, chewing their cuds, and high-fiving each other at every mundane accomplishment, then baseball is the game for you.

After a lifetime of covering basketball, football and horse racing, I find baseball about as interesting and exciting and fast-paced as watching guys getting haircuts. Now write about my ignorance of the beauty and strategy of the game. On second thought, forget it and go play in your favorite fantasy league.

Another observation.

Chicago and Houston are not the only cities celebrating this week.

Oakland, or at least the part of it where the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative is located, must be celebrating too, after the sentencing of the Balco Boys. Mastermind Victor Conte got four months in the slammer and four months at home; his vice- president, James Valente, got probation after pleading guilty to charges of steroid distribution; Barry Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson, gets to spend three months in the cooler with Conte and three more at home, locked up there; and track coach Remi Korchemny gets nothing now and probably probation later.

Bonds, Jason Giambi, Marion Jones and Balco’s other high profile customers get to laugh at the sentencing from the comfort of their lofty perches. Still presumably ambling around in Champaign, Illinois is Mark McGwire’s main man, androstenedione dealer Patrick Arnold.

Let’s all have a moment of silence.

Back on the football front, I’m ready to begin my annual quiz of 100 fans, picked at random, to see if any 2 of them — PhDs in mathematics not eligible -- understand how the Bowl Championship Series ratings work in college football. Now in their eighth year, and with five major teams currently undefeated, we are headed for another national controversy if Southern Cal and Texas do not wind up playing for the championship.

This BCS stuff may be fine for mathematicians and statisticians, but it leaves the little guy who used to take the coaches’ or sportswriters’ word for things upset and disturbed.

Those of us, whether beer guzzlers or champagne sippers, who are interested in watching the flower of American manhood do weekly battle every fall, should not have to take advanced calculus or game theory to know how the ultimate outcome is going to turn out.

The old way””gut instinct — was good enough, and made things a lot livelier at the corner saloon.