The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

#106 or #108. Who cares? Good question.

Posted by disappointmentzone on 27 September 2006

From Stewart Mandel’s college football mailbag this afternoon:

Stewart, I am ashamed of you! Once again you fail to move Colorado ahead of North Texas in your 26-119 rankings! I understand that CU is 0-4; however, name a school besides Notre Dame that has played a more intense nonconference schedule. Perhaps after CU swats Mizzou and Georgia dominates Ole Miss, you will give the Buffs a break and move them far up your charts.
— Randy Garcia, San Antonio

OK. First of all, Randy, you need to calm down for a second and maybe consider whether you need to make some serious lifestyle changes if you’re allowing yourself to get stressed out about whether your team is ranked 90th or 101st. Secondly, to anyone else who has sent similar e-mails, I’d just like to state for the record that I do not compile those 26-119 rankings. The only way they relate to my Top 25 is that the teams don’t overlap. We actually have a specially trained team of monkeys in the basement, each of which is responsible for watching a specific conference’s games each Saturday and reporting back to the group, which then compiles the ratings. If there’s a error in regard to North Texas, it may be because the monkey assigned to watch the Sun Belt keeps mysteriously escaping from his cage.

First of all: No. Randy from San Antonio has every right to be upset about the relative ranking of Colorado versus North Texas. Why? Because is publishing these idiotic rankings. If the rankings matter–which is the implicit conceit makes ever time it publishes them–then people will treat them as though they matter, which means being upset when they don’t make sense. Second, saying that a group of monkeys churns out the weekly 26-119 rankings undermines the entire operation of producing and publishing the rankings. The first point is important (the second point is tengential). The issue is not whether Randy from San Antonio is overreacting by actively questioning the ranking of Colorado; it’s whether thinks the ranking of Colorado (and the other 93 teams) matters.

Sports Illustrated, whether it likes it or not, carries a lot of weight. When publishes things is signaling that they matter. Such is the burden of being an important journalistic publication. The contradiction of publishing items that (admittedly) don’t matter is a serious crack in the substructure upon which SI is based. Either the 26-119 power rankings matter–and if they matter then people will be bothered when their team is unfairly rankedor the 26-119 power rankings don’t matter–in which case, why publish them at all?

Most egregious, of course, is writers belittling their readers for taking its published content seriously.

Shame on you, I’m sure Stephen Colbert won’t be wagging his finger at you, but he ought to.


2 Responses to “#106 or #108. Who cares? Good question.”

  1. Isaiah said

    Why don’t rankings 26-119 matter? The top 25 teams aren’t the only ones who play in bowl games these days, are they? While I agree that Randy is probably a little stressed as a CU fan this year and is overreacting quite a lot, it’s also funny that SI would be mad that someone would react to their own rankings.

    Monkeys watching football is humorous though.

    Really, isn’t this a perfect example of why a playoff system is better than the BCS system? I’m not a fan of a playoff system in the NCAAF, but how can it be worse than the BCS? Really, to me, it boils down to the fact that a ranking system is generally useless in any NCAA sport thanks to the fact that there are a million teams in several hundred thousand conferences (and Notre Dame) so it’s hard to say if California ranks above Oklahoma or USC above Auburn. If Colorado is better than North Texas, great, but why worry about if they’re 93rd or 95th best in the country? (Obviously because it matters)

    I suppose it only matters if you’re in the top 6 or win a BCS berth via winning your conference, but that’s a sick way to run a sport, I think.

    (Sorry for bringing up NCAA football playoffs on your site)

  2. I never said the rankings don’t matter–I only said that they were idiotic. The amount of knowledge it would take for a person or group of people to adequately assess the ability of all 119 D1 football teams is far more enormous than what SI is putting into it. Ranking teams 26-119, if it were accurate, would be nice, I suppose, especially for those fans whose teams fall in that range. But what is throwing out–monkeys doing the work–makes their rankings idiotic.

    NCAA football playoffs is a worthwhile idea worth discussing.

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