Far be it for me to be the new guy in town who knows how to do things better.
But then again ...
Pingpong balls and a lottery-style air mix machine are deciding the fate of our state’s high school football teams when it comes playoff time?
To me, the explanation for this nonsense is simple. Nobody wants to take the heat.
As a former high school wrestling coach, I know what it is like to stand in those seeding meetings and try to compare wrestlers who face completely different competitors. It gets downright nasty. My guy who is 19-2 faced much better guys than your guy who went 26-0. You can argue until you are blue in the face and beyond.
Many times, the outcome is not very satisfying. It can be infuriating. I’ve seen coaches almost break out in a WWE match right in front of my eyes.
When all the aggravation subsides, though, you get a reasonable bracket. The mistakes that are made usually don’t come into play until the later rounds. In the end, it rewards the athletes who did great work during the season.
Now let’s take a look at Indiana High School football. Those pingpong balls popped out ... biff, bang, boom ... and you get Columbus East at East Central.
The Olympians are the No. 1-ranked Class 4A team in Indiana. The Trojans are No. 6.
There is a word for this first-round matchup. Stupid. Ridiculous. Crazy.
OK, that’s three words.
Now I know that East coach Bob Gaddis isn’t complaining. He likes the system because it is like a second season for everyone involved. It gives teams new hope. Everyone is equal.
Coach Gaddis is far too kind.
All the teams are not equal, and that’s why you just played an entire regular season. The tournament should be seeded according to each team’s performance.
The Columbus East fans should get a home game because of their team’s undefeated regular season. The Olympians earned it.
You can look at it another way. Columbus North has had a tough season, and yet the Bull Dogs will host a first-round game against Whiteland. And going even further, if they win, there is a good chance they could host another game against Franklin Central, a team that beat North earlier in the season. That’s just not right. And I would imagine that North coach Tim Bless would be the first to say that it really isn’t right. But, like everyone, he works within the system he is given.
This season the system favors North, but next year, it might be the opposite.
The playoffs should be a special time, and a victory should be a huge cause for celebration. In today’s sports world, we have set up championships in just about everything so that there is just one victor at the end of a season. Having five classes in Indiana was a good idea to spread the wealth, and that expands to six next year. But furthermore, each playoff victory should be reason to celebrate and savor that success.
If I have a three-win team and I beat a winless squad just because the pingpong balls fell my way, is that reason for celebration? If I have the second-best team in the state and I lose to the best team in the first round, is that right?
The current system exists not because it is fair but because it is easy.