Steve Chapman

BCS defenders say it preserves the glorious bowl tradition and makes regular season games more meaningful. True enough. And yet this alleged specimen of genius is unsuitable for every other sport in the NCAA.

If you want to win the national championship in baseball or volleyball (or football in the other divisions), you do it by winning a playoff. If the BCS approach is so great, why doesn't anyone else use it?

As for the Electoral College: ditto. We all remember the post-election court fight in 2000. But as Texas A&M University political scientist George C. Edwards III wrote in his 2004 book, "Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America," "If we selected presidents like we select governors, senators, representatives, and virtually every elected official in the United States, Al Gore would have been elected president -- no matter which chads were counted in Florida."

The existing system is supposedly vital because it preserves federalism, strengthens the two parties and promotes national consensus. Really? Has anyone noticed that the states have steadily lost power? The two parties have no trouble dominating non-presidential elections.

Far from fostering broad consensus, it forces candidates to concentrate on a narrow slice of the country. California and Texas are the two most populous states, but neither got a single visit from a presidential or vice presidential candidate during the fall 2008 election campaign. What kind of "consensus" leaves out 60 million people?

Both the BCS and the Electoral College have their staunch defenders (including, in past years, me). But the virtues ascribed to each amount to lame rationalizations for a mess we can't seem to escape. We are hostages, and some of us have succumbed to Stockholm syndrome, coming to identify with our captors.

We may have to live with these ridiculous, outmoded methods. But we don't have to kid ourselves.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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