LITTLE ROCK — It was a great game, decided as time expired.
It was well received, the ratings the highest in the history of cable television.
It was the perfect punctuation, the season ending with the controversial Heisman winner striking the famous pose while toting the national title trophy.
So why did the whole glorious, splendid, epic production leave us feeling empty afterward?
Because it was hollow throughout.
Empty enough to produce its own echo. That, again, described the BCS final, major college football being the only significant sport that stages a championship that has no soul.
Think about it. No other league or organization crowns a king after so little competition. One game. That’s it. Two teams. Four quarters. Three hours of TV. Nothing more.
The BCS trophy quite simply is the least impressive one to hoist in all of sports.
Fittingly then, Monday’s game was decided when one team converted a kick that was shorter than an extra point.
Only major college football requires such a minimal degree of accomplishment from its ultimate winner. It would be difficult to ask for less, frankly.
Perhaps we should be thankful that the sport’s leaders at least mandate that a game be played. Otherwise, they could just hand the crystal football to the team that wins the coin toss.
Sure, it looked like something more, something special, looked like a mini-Super Bowl, which is exactly what the BCS and ESPN wanted. The night was dressed up nicely, to be certain, with exhaustive pregame shows, a TV studio right there in the stadium and all manner of special celebrity analysis.
But, and let’s be honest here, what did Oregon-Auburn then feel like? Really feel like?
It felt like another bowl game, the 35th one of this season, no less. It felt like something that’s been around since mid-December, popping up again and again as just another viewing alternative.
The NBA Finals, the World Series, the Stanley Cup Final, the Final Four, the real Super Bowl. Each feels like a culmination, a conclusion to an often rugged journey that will end with one exhausted winner still upright.
The BCS title game feels like a groggy reintroduction, like the first pitch after a five-week rain delay. Instead of surviving multiple challenges to reach the peak, college football’s finalists must overcome the boredom of relentless inactivity.
Do you know what they call deadtime that lasts this long in sports like golf? The offseason.
Where other sports deal with losses through attrition, college football deals with a lack of general ambition. This weekend, consider the negative impact of all this standing around when four NFL playoff teams attempt to restart their engines following a single bye week.
Hey, if they are going to insist on trumping up a championship, this BCS system is pretty good. The refinements over the years have produced a decent mechanism for identifying the two most deserving teams.
But let’s all agree that these champs are, in fact, trumped up. Auburn is the BCS champion, OK?There’s no debating that. There is also no way of knowing if the Tigers would have won a college football playoff.
Of course, Auburn still will be introduced as the sport’s reigning BCS “national” champions. This coming from a society that also seriously crowns “World” Series winners in a sport that has teams in only two countries.
Anyway, the Auburn Tigers certainly will tout themselves as national titlists. Souvenir T-shirts and ballcaps are available in a variety of colors and sizes.
But what about TCU, which still hasn’t lost? What about Ohio State, a team no one would be comfortable playing right now? What about Stanford, which might have the next Heisman winner at quarterback?
Only college football can hold a feast that lasts three months, take a few weeks off, come back for another three weeks of games and still have so many leftovers, so many unsatisfied appetites, so many hollow stomachs.
What you’re feeling today is emptiness, the same thing being felt everywhere in college football other than at one school in Alabama.
Sports, Pages 18 on 01/13/2011