Elsewhere in your sports section today, you might stumble on the latest component to help a troubled America determine a national champion in college football.
It is called the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, aka "A Bunch Of Guys Scratching Themselves and Voting on Football Teams They Virtually Never See." Harris Interactive is a Rochester, N.Y.-based marketing research firm that, up until now, really had nothing better to do.
The Harris poll, of course, is brought to you by the good folks at the Bowl Championship Series. You remember the BCS -- the Cirque du Soleil of sports -- filled with enough babble and blather to sustain all of sports-talk radio and a James Carville dinner party.
The Harris poll was concocted as part of the BCS's procedure to create an annual national title game; for BCS purposes, it replaces the Associated Press media poll. After last season, the AP asked the BCS to stop using its top 25 as part of the BCS formula because, uh, well, the AP got real righteous in regard to, oh, I don't know, something or another.
So this Harris firm went out and combed the countryside looking for scores of qualified panelists when, for my money, all it had to do was find Beano Cook and call it a day. Harris created a panel of 114 voters, mostly former coaches, players and administrators, plus some wayward media members, who were selected from 300 nominations supplied by NCAA schools.
As soon as Harris voters were revealed, there was quite a stir -- have I mentioned yet the million wayward bloggers who spend most of their late afternoons opining on BCS controversies? -- in regard to the qualifications and makeup of this culturally critical new panel. Heck, Supreme Court nominees don't undergo as thorough a review as people charged to pick our best college football teams, but then again, who can't see the wisdom in that?
The first victim was Jason Rash, president of Georgia Masonry Supply and son-in-law of Troy University Coach Larry Blakeney -- apparently Rash's only connection to the game -- who withdrew from the Harris panel after it was determined he did not meet the BCS's voter criteria.
And what is that criteria?
Best I can tell . . .
1. You must be still living.
2. You must be a man.
Incidentally, when I say "still living," I mean "not quite dead." Or as former coach and Harris voter John Mackovic wrote recently in the Palm Springs (Calif.) Desert Sun: "There are several people on the panel who have long since departed their active roles in football. . . . To tell you the truth, I did not know a couple of them were still alive." As for the fact that the 114-member Harris panel does not include any women, well, who needs 'em? We gave them the right to vote on real stuff in 1920, we put one onto the Supreme Court in 1981 and we even gave them the WNBA in 1997. What, now they're going to tell us if Florida or Florida State is a better football team? Not to mention, if they do stick a lady on the panel, it would probably be someone like Billie Jean King or Martha Stewart, and who needs that kind of aggravation?
Anyway, among the individuals nominated who did not make the Elite 114: Amos Alonzo Stagg; Pop Warner; Burt Reynolds; Dauber Dybinski; Luther Van Dam; David Hasselhoff; Tommy Trojan; Gerald Ford; Siegfried and Roy; Alexander Haig; Pauly Shore; the second Darrin from "Bewitched;" Brian Bosworth's stunt double; Larry, Darryl and his other brother Darryl; Jimmy Kimmel's cousin Sal; Donovan McNabb's mother; and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
Naturally, USC is No. 1 in the first Harris poll. This was not a tricky decision: at this point, if you surveyed 114 entomologists, 114 sea lions or 114 fire hydrants, each group would determine that USC is No. 1.
This season's BCS title game will be played Jan. 4 at the Rose Bowl. Nearly 60 percent of Harris panel members have indicated they plan to watch it.
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