There has been a changing of the guard in Washington, D.C.
No, I’m not talking about the playoff-supporting president-elect or the dominant Democratic majority in the national legislature. I’m talking about the fact that, finally, Lynn Westmoreland’s claim to the title "Whiniest Loser in Congress" has passed to a new national embarrassment.
Take it away, Representative Joe Barton (R.-Tex.):
Taking aim at a BCS system he said "consistently misfires," a member of Congress planned to introduce legislation Wednesday that would force college football to adopt a playoff to determine the national champion.
Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, didn't specify what sort of playoff he wants -- only that the BCS should go. . . .
He said the bill -- being co-sponsored by Reps. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, and Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican -- "will prohibit the marketing, promotion, and advertising of a postseason game as a 'national championship' football game, unless it is the result of a playoff system. Violations of the prohibition will be treated as violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act as an unfair or deceptive act or practice."
Before proceeding, I would like to take a moment to rejoice at this good news. Obviously, such trifling problems as international terrorism, the war in Iraq, the faltering economy, the offshoring of American jobs, our failing education system, energy independence, and the crippling crises in the lending and automotive industries have been solved, or else no Congressman would dare act in such a petty manner regarding such a superficial issue.
What’s that? Those problems still exist? Oh. Well. In that case, I guess Joe Barton is a shameful sack of snot who has no business being in a field that ought to be reserved for serious people who take real issues seriously. (Yes, you know and I know that I don’t really mean "sack of snot," but, then, John Nance Garner didn’t really say the vice presidency of the United States wasn’t worth a pitcher of warm spit, either. I’m trying to keep it clean, even though Joe is testing my patience. I do not suffer fools gladly and I suffer fools with more power than good sense never.)
If Joe thinks this is a legitimate use of his time and the taxpayers’ money, he is a blithering dufus with no conception of the commonweal whose obviously mismatched priorities ought to get him shipped out of the District of Columbia and off to a ranch in Montana with Stewart Mandel’s 100 mythical college football fans.
Let us, however, leave aside the fact that no intellectually credible reading of Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution comes even remotely close to authorizing any action this asinine. (Please, don’t cite me any U.S. Supreme Court decisions broadly reading the commerce clause. The mere fact that five U.S. Supreme Court justices thought it at one point in American history doesn’t make it an intellectually credible reading of the Constitution, as anyone who has ever made his way through the incoherent muddle that is much of Con law knows full well.) It suffices simply to say that anyone with Joe Barton’s infantile understanding of the proper reading of the powers of the national government shouldn’t be sitting in Congress.
What concerns me most, though, is the fact that his approach is not only sweeping and overbearing, it’s also dumb. Joe Barton wants to treat the use of the phrase "national championship game" when applied to a B.C.S. bowl as a deceptive trade practice in violation of federal law . . . even though the name of the contest is "the B.C.S. National Championship Game"? If Representative Barton is not being ironic, he needs to read more Orwell.
Even if such a law were to be passed, it would be so preposterous as to be ineffectual. Some federal laws are so stupid that everyone merely ignores them, which is why the only people in this country who use the metric system are scientists, marathon runners, and drug dealers. This would be such a law. Give the president-elect credit; although I disagree with his position on a playoff, at least he supports a playoff by supporting a playoff. Joe Barton supports a playoff by saying, um, well, we don’t have to have a playoff or anything, we just can’t call the national champion "the national champion" unless we do. It’s like declaring beauty pageants sexist and trying to stamp them out by refusing to let the Miss America pageant use the phrase "Miss America." Was the pageant the problem or the name?
Even if federal bureaucrats could stop laughing at this law long enough to enforce it, though, who believes the powers that be in college football are not savvy enough to get around it? Does anyone remember when it was made illegal to advertise beer on gas station signs? They starting putting the phrase "cold beverages," accompanied by prices, on signs instead. The letter of the law was obeyed but no one misapprehended the euphemism. The small-minded law’s only accomplishments were to reduce respect for the rule of law as a whole and to reiterate the reality that money-motivated entrepreneurs will always have adequate ingenuity to outsmart paternalistic bureaucrats who get bent out of shape over the citizenry’s insistence upon living freely.
If guys running roadside convenience stores are savvy enough to outwit the civil service lifers tucked away in cubicles in windowless government buildings, how much more overmatched do you suppose the Label Police will be when they run up against the Worldwide Leader in Sports? The B.C.S. can’t call it a national championship game? Fine; get ready for some new slogans. "The Battle for No. 1!" "The Race for the Top Spot!" "Crowning the Best Team in the Land!" "The Final Fight to Finish First!" Brent Musburger could be programmed to recite any of those catch-phrases ad infinitum without missing a beat.
In short, it’s a dumb law, it’s a bad law, it’s a terrifying precedent, it’s beneath the dignity of the U.S. Congress (which is saying something), and we all know it’s disingenuous.
Where was Representative Barton from, again? Oh, yeah . . . Texas. If I’m not mistaken, Texas is the home state of, you know, Texas. Gosh, how’d the Longhorns do this year?
Oh. Right. Well, then. Say, I wonder why Representative Barton didn’t introduce this bill after Vince Young and the Burnt Orange beat U.S.C. in the Rose Bowl? Maybe some national championships are more equal than others.
Joe Barton, who "promised to continue fighting for conservative values," evidently believes an increasingly intrusive national government that enforces speech codes is "conservative." That would have been news to Barry Goldwater. I wonder if Representative Barton will recognize the caricature he has made of conservatism by introducing such a bill the next time he visits his Arlington office on West Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway?
Obviously, he is shamelessly pandering to the Longhorn fans among his constituents. You know what, though? Just as former Georgia State University student Lynn Westmoreland tried to pass himself off as a University of Georgia man by moaning about "his" Bulldogs, Joe Barton is trying to dupe the Texas exes by pretending to be one of them.
Here may be the greatest hypocrisy of them all: Joe Barton attended Texas A&M and Purdue. That’s right . . . an Aggie undergrad and a Big Ten alum is trying to pass for a Longhorn fan. Somewhere, Peter Bean just threw up in his mouth a little.
I know Texas fans. I work with Texas fans at SB Nation. Texas fans are friends of mine. Joe Barton is no Texas fan, and, no matter how mad the Longhorn faithful may be and no matter how much they may hate Oklahoma, surely they won’t get in bed with the Aggies in order to fight this perceived injustice.
I use the word "perceived" because, although Texas had an argument, they lost that argument fairly and they have no particular business feeling slighted. I know there are plenty of Cal fans out there who are delighting in Mack Brown’s misery, but I will offer the same advice to the Longhorns that I did to the Golden Bears four years ago:
Either beat Texas Tech or quit your whining.
In any case, though, Joe Barton needs to sit down, shut up, and quit shaming the Lone Star State, which deserves better than a nimrod like him acting the fool in the nation’s capital.