Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Is the College World Series Too Long?

It seems that in the post-Rosenblatt era of the College World Series, there's always something to complain about. First it was parking, despite the fact that there was much more parking available downtown closer to the stadium  (and at a cheaper price).  Then it was the lack of home runs; even though the drop in home runs was season-long, people blamed the ballpark. This year, thanks to the introduction of the flat seamed baseball in the college game, home runs were up all season and thus, up at the College World Series.

Now, the criticism is that the College World Series is too long.  I'm not sure that it is, but they do have a point.  It's 12 days from start to finish, with Vanderbilt and Virginia spending two full weeks in the Big O.  So I kind of see the point, but it's nothing new, folks.

It's been this way since 2003.  Pavin Smith, Virginia's hero in the title game, was probably still playing T-ball then.

Well, maybe not... ESPN did push to add an extra rest day before the best-of-three series in 2008, but that only added one day to the mix...and that was done to ensure that the final series didn't start on Sunday.  Why?

Because ESPN wants Sunday left free for their prime-time Major League game. It's like everything else in sports: scheduling games is at the mercy of the networks.  That's why we have Nebraska football games starting at 8:15 pm and 11 am in Lincoln.  Playoff games in all sports starting on weekday afternoons on the west coast while the local fans are still at work.  It sucks for fans who spend the money to attend the games, but the fan stopped being the priority a long time ago.

That being said, there is a simple solution to the issue with the length of the College World Series, and it's one that hasn't been proposed by anybody:

Let's go back to the traditional format used from 1950 until 1987:  a true eight-team double elimination tournament.  Enough of this silly "Bracket One" and "Bracket Two" stuff; the fact that we haven't named these brackets is proof positive that we don't really care about it.  So let's ditch it.

The immediate advantage of doing away with the brackets is that we start seeing a variety of matchups in the losers bracket.  This year, Virginia and Vanderbilt essentially played two best-of-three series after the opening round matchups:  Virginia played Florida three times in a row, and Vanderbilt played TCU three times in a row.  That doesn't happen in a true double elimination tournament because TCU and Florida would have switched sides of the bracket coming out of the elimination games.

Another change:  put the elimination games into a doubleheader to tighten up the scheduling.  Harder on pitchers?  Maybe.  But it takes a day off the CWS and tightens things up for the fans.

ESPN might not like it, and coaches who want to try to throw their ace three times in the CWS might not either.  But it's something to think about.

And then we can turn to the real problem at the College World Series.  Why does a Zesto burger and hot fudge shake cost $15 downtown?  I solved that problem myself by driving out to the Zesto's out at 108th & Military, where it was half that price.  It's still the same outstanding Zesto burger, though this time, I think they skimped a bit of the hot fudge a bit.  Still was pretty good.

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