Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Patrick Hruby (writer, Sports on Earth and The Atlantic), Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic) discuss college football's new postseason tournament, the College Football Playoff.
As far as product names go, it's less Kleenex, PlayStation, or Twitter than store-brand macaroni and cheese, an unimaginative exercise in what-you-read-is-what-you-get. Are you ready for the "College Football Playoff?"
I hope so, because that's literally what's coming.
Earlier this week, the sport's power brokers revealed the official moniker for their in-the-works four-team postseason tournament—a replacement for the much-reviled Bowl Championship Series, something fans long have clamored for—and while they claimed they hired a marketing firm to help with branding, it's hard to imagine the actual name-creation meeting consisting of anything other than: a) 25 seconds of brainstorming; b) a looooong afternoon guzzling martinis at the bar across the street. (Give the same people the Sports Illustrated account, and say hello to the annual "Mostly Naked Models" issue).
That said, I shouldn't poke too much fun. The name might be straightforward to the point of self-parody, but it still matters. It matters for what it doesn't include. Namely, four big letters: N-C-A-A. Just this week, association president Mark Emmert spoke at the annual Football Bowl Association convention in California, where he pronounced that "intercollegiate athletics has never been stronger in America." In one respect, Emmert is exactly right—college sports are strong, in that they're more popular and profitable than ever. Especially football.