Obama's Proposal, Berman's Performance Win on 'Monday Night'

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By Leonard Shapiro
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, November 4, 2008; 5:44 PM

It seems unlikely that Chris Berman's halftime interview of the two major-party candidates on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" the night before the 2008 presidential election might actually impact on the final outcome.

And yet, didn't you want to stand up and cheer when Barrack Obama, asked by Berman to name the one thing in sports he would like to change, smiled into the camera and fairly shouted, "I think it is about time we had playoffs in college football. I'm fed up with those computer rankings. Get eight teams -- the top eight teams -- right at the end. You got a playoff. Decide a national champion."

Now, before you totally scoff at the notion that Obama's loud-and-clear, no-spin position could win him a vote or two, let's go to the battleground state of Pennsylvania and have a little speculative fun.

Say you're a fan of Penn State's undefeated football team, currently No. 3 behind Alabama and Texas Tech in the BCS rankings. If those two teams win out and finish in the same order, the Nittany Lions and their octogenarian coach could actually get shut out of a shot at a national title, something that would not make you very happy.

So here comes Obama, saying in prime time--at halftime of a game featuring one of Pennsylvania's most popular sports teams--that he wants to see a college football playoff, one that this season almost certainly would have to include Penn State and Joe Paterno.

If you were living in Pennsylvania and still undecided on your choice for president, isn't it possible that you might recall Obama's call for a playoff just before you pulled the lever?

And let's take this one step further. Maybe a couple of hundred previously undecided Penn State football fans tuning in to the Steelers game actually based their vote for Obama on his college playoff stance (it sure beats flipping a coin, right?). And then, maybe he wins a critical battleground state that had been up for grabs by those same couple of hundred votes, making it impossible for McCain to win the electoral college.

Stranger things have happened.

For a prime example, go Google "Supreme Court and Al Gore."

By the way, John McCain's answer to the same Berman sports-related question was focused on his desire to "take action" on eliminating performance enhancing drugs.

Memo to the senator from Arizona: Congress already has tried to take action, even conducting highly publicized (and politicized) hearings starring the likes of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens. Clearly, this ship has already sailed, leaving McCain (and Barry Bonds) in its wake.

But could you imagine an Obama administration throwing its weight behind a college football playoff following the inaugural parade in January? Whoa Nellie, Keith Jackson might even be tempted to come out of semi-retirement and go rumblin' stumblin' and bumblin' all the way to Capitol Hill to testify in favor of the idea.


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