Damien Lockhart


A Morning Debate with Anson

You wouldn't believe how a simple question posed by my spirited son, Anson, completely shook up my day - and trust me, it wasn't about why Munchkin, our golden retriever, insists on shedding fur on freshly cleaned furniture. "Dad, should the college football playoff be expanded to eight teams?" was Anson's question, bolted out in between chomping on his breakfast cereal. Let's be honest, I live for these mornings where a philosophical debate can be about my all-time favorite sport - football! This got the mental gears spinning, and I thought it would be worthwhile to ruminate on this topic, and share my thoughts with all you like-minded sports enthusiasts out there.

The Current State of Play

Before we dive into the debate head-on, it's vital to understand the current landscape of college football playoffs. Since 2014, four teams have been given the opportunity to battle it out on the gridiron for the title of National Champion. The system is elegant in its simplicity. The four highest-ranked teams, as decided by the 13 members of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, advance to the semifinals, with the winners progressing to the championship game. Simple, clean, and concise. However, like any good system, it begs the question: Could it be better?

More is Always Merrier, Right?

So, what would happen if we bump that number to eight? On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer. More teams mean more games. More games translate to more excitement. More excitement delivers increased viewership, and, ultimately, more revenues. But is bulking up the playoffs the key to a more thrilling and fairer season? Or is it just a greedy ploy to garner more cash and viewership? You see, like with most good things, there's always a flip side.

The Perils of Playoff Expansion

There's no denying that increasing the volume of games can lead to increased risks for injuries among players. These young athletes are still physically developing. Their bodies are not seasoned, unlike their professional counterparts. So, stretching them thin could have repercussions on their health and longevity. Besides, let's not forget that these players are essentially students. More games could lead to more travel, resulting in less time for studying and college life. Where do we draw the line between sports and education?

The Joy in the Hunt

On a more philosophical note, expanding the playoffs could undermine the magic of the regular season. The thrill of the playoff is in part due to its exclusiveness. The fight for one of those four coveted spots makes each game during the season that much more critical. It's a high-stakes game from start to finish. And really, isn't that the beauty of it? The tension, the drama, the euphoria; it's all born out of this unique structure. If we open the gates too wide, we risk diluting this potent brew that we have come to love.

A Case for More Competition

However, in the spirit of balance, it's important to acknowledge the flip side. With more teams in the playoffs, there's bound to be more competition. The intensifying competition could even out, creating a level playing field that fosters talent and strategy over sheer luck. Moreover, it gives more athletes a taste of the big leagues, which could be a crucial experience for those aspiring for a professional career. The question boils down to this: Does the thrill of more competition outweigh the potential pitfalls of an expanded playoff system?

The Power of Tradition

We must not forget that college football rests on a rich tapestry of tradition. Some might argue that changing the structure of the playoffs is sacrilege, but tradition can co-exist with change. It's about acknowledging the past and pioneering the future, without fear of treading new ground. After all, four-team playoffs were a big change that we've rallied behind. What's to say that an eight-team system won't inspire the same level of adaptation and acceptance?

To Eight or Not to Eight?

After pondering these arguments and discussing them with Anson, I find myself torn between the status quo and the enticing prospect of an expanded playoff, just like many of you might be. It's a question that isn't black or white. It simmers in shades of gray. It demands that we balance tradition with evolution, excitement with sanity, finances with ethics. To eight or not to eight? That's the question. But whether it's a four-team race or an eight-team marathon, at the end of the day, all we truly desire is a thrilling season packed with unforgettable games, isn't it?

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