Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It wasn't that bad...

"Bad passing. Bad blocking. Bad coaching. The team simply oozed rottenness from every bad play. Simply bad beyond all infinite dimensions of possible badness."
--adapted from a film review by Opus the Penguin in Bloom County

After the Big Ten's 0-5 New Year's Day debacle, every sportswriter's commentary on the conference could have been summarized by Berke Breathed's intrepid penguin. The death knell was sounding for the conference, and sports pundit after sports pundit lined up to help deliver the eulogy.

That said, if any of them would have thought to shamelessly rip off Opus' diatribe like I did, they probably would have left off his classic disclaimer at the end: "OK, maybe it wasn't that bad, but Lord, it wasn't good."

And while it certainly wasn't good, the Big Ten's bowl season wasn't as bad as it seems to some. Yes, it did seem like the Michigan state legislature passed a new law preventing their state schools from taking any sort of football ability out of the state, and in the fourth quarter of the Outback Bowl, Penn State looked like it had an 84 year-old quarterback instead of an 84 year-old coach. But Northwestern put up 38 points on Texas Tech with their backup quarterback, and Wisconsin probably would have taken #3 Texas Christian to overtime in the Rose Bowl if their coach would have remembered that it was his running game that earned him a share of the Big Ten title when it was time to go for a two-point conversion at the end of the game.

And let's not forget that three other Big 10 schools played in bowl games before and after January 1. In a pair of showdowns with Big 12 schools, Illinois dominated Baylor, and Iowa (Go Hawks!) upset #14 Missouri without its leading rusher and its all-time leading receiver. In the conference's second BCS game, Ohio State held off a late Arkansas run to win the Sugar Bowl.

It's always easy to dwell on the negative. It's always easier to criticize. It's often easy to forget that there is good and bad in most situations. "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times," Leo Tolstoy wrote in Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele's version of War and Peace. I'm sure Charles Dickens would agree.

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