Let the (playoff) games begin

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the former BCS system sucked.

Let me ascribe some more sophisticated vocabulary to this statement. The system was bloated, inefficient and capitalist. The endurance of such excess was a testament to the mindlessness of modern entertainment, something that would make Aldous Huxley nod his head in approval before turning in his grave.

Thank God the BCS commissioners finally clued in.

Today the Presidential Oversight Committee approved a new postseason model that will feature a semifinal round to determine the championship contenders. To say it’s the second coming of Christ for fans isn’t even hyperbolic. NCAA football was the last mainstream televised sport that didn’t feature a traditional playoff system.

Up until now, the winner of each BCS Championship game was predetermined long before that first kick-off. With only the nation’s top two teams battling for a title, any hope of actual competition was extinguished halfway through the season when rankings settled into an even keel.

And that doesn’t even take into account the oversaturation of mediocrity during bowl season. Think about it. All a team needs is a .500 record. Break even on the season, and you’re in. That’s the exact definition of mediocre. That’s the place where snuffed-out seasons choke out a few dying breaths. That’s the NCAA version of a think tank, in which the only question worth pondering is how to slap a ridiculous name on a tournament and still make it sound legitimate.

Cal fans are all too familiar with this last gripe. After a year-long hiatus from the entire bowl system, wasn’t it so much fun to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl? What does that title even mean? Are we endorsing education or the holidays? Perhaps it’s the education of America’s youth on the importance of holidays. I give up.

During bowl season, it’s all football, all the time. But it’s not even good football (yeah, I’m still pointing at Cal here). Rarely will a game force you to sit up and glue your eyes to the screen as players attempt incredible feats of faith and athleticism. Save that for actual playoff games, in which all bets are off and teams actually battle for guts and glory.

With this new system, rankings will still play a key role in determining which four teams make the semifinals. It’s still only the tip of the iceberg as far as contenders go, but this is a new direction that leaves space for future expansion. There’s talk floating around that the semifinal games would rotate among the four current BCS games.

It’s an efficient way to use the bones of a ruin to build a better system; the only drawback is what becomes of the remaining BCS games. Would something as stalwart and tradition-laden as the Rose Bowl moniker be carelessly thrown to the wayside? I would hate to see a New Year’s Day tradition take a back burner to a sudden upstart.

But I digress. The point is, a season doesn’t really heat up until the playoffs begin. I am shamelessly in love with playoffs, even if it means I have to bandwagon onto another team to extend my season. There’s a certain fascination to watching a game in which everything is on the line. The only rule is that there are no rules. Absolutely anything goes. Upsets and fourth-quarter comebacks become a tangible reality rather than a miraculous fantasy. In a gamble that places everything on the line, emotions are boiled down to their most intense and basic levels: rage and exhilaration and, at times, heartbreak. Sometimes the thrill of the game surpasses its finesse.

The same could never be said of the BCS series. Until now.