Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Peace in Our Time? Part II: The West About the author, Boyd Nation

Peace in Our Time? Part II: The West

Publication Date: September 5, 2000

Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

I apologize.

This week has been a reminder of a lesson that all writers at any level, even one as trivial as this column in the grand scheme of things, need to be taught periodically: It's much more difficult to write (especially absent external motivators) about something that you really don't care about. Any excuse becomes a valid reason for massive procrastination, and the work that results is usually less than awe-inspiring. Since the contents of this column were also promised in a different venue as well, double apologies for its lateness are in order.

The Neverending Story

If you spend any time at all in non-local discussions of college baseball (or most college sports, for that matter), whether on the Usenet newsgroup, a few college mailing lists, or in the mailboxes of little-known columnists, you know that there is a constant running debate over the quality of play between the various regions, primarily between the West, loosely defined as California and Arizona with a few other teams thrown in, and the Southeast, loosely defined as the SEC, ACC, and Miami, with a few other teams thrown in. The fact that the Texas teams outshine both of those regions in some years, such as 1999, doesn't really seem to enter the debate much, although it probably would were anyone actually going into these things with an open mind.

At this point, it's tempting to launch into a rant about the debating techniques generally used in these discussions, but I try to hold these columns to 1000 words or so, and, frankly, I don't think I could do it justice without coming up with an ASCII symbol for spittle anyway. Suffice it to say that the level of chest-beating, Argument by Experience (I played once, so you don't know what you're talking about), and, most notably, Argument by Declaration in these exchanges make the average Usenet gun control or abortion thread look refined and intelligent by comparison.

On a deeper level, the incredible stupidity of the whole debate keeps it from interesting me much at all. I'm a college baseball fan. I enjoy watching Mark Teixeira play ball. I've really enjoyed watching Stanford play over the last few years as they've put together an incredibly consistent program. I don't particularly enjoy watching LSU play, but I do respect the fact that Skip Bertman figured out the implications of the rules and equipment that the colleges play with and took advantage of them in a way that kept the rest of the nation playing catch-up for most of the '90's, and I do respect the fact that he hasn't abandoned a strategy that still works despite the beginnings of a movement by the NCAA to lessen offense.

I can't figure out any reason why my enjoyment of those things should change in any way based on where those teams happen to be located by an accident of geography.

The Evidence, or Lack Thereof

However, I unfortunately agreed, after getting sucked into yet another of these debates (even in arguments I don't care about, whether online or in real life, I always have trouble ignoring innumeracy and bad logic, a weakness that has served me poorly time and again), to try to put together a summary of the evidence for all of the different positions in an effort to have a document to throw at people when they try to restart this endless boondoggle. This will allow to either overwhelm them before they can really get started or, at least, distract them long enough that I can slip off to a glass of sweet tea or something while they're huffing and puffing.

This has turned out to be an endeavor of significant size, especially given the factors mentioned at the top and the ever-present weight of other real-life concerns, so I'm going to have to bite into it in chunks. My plan is to present the various positions this week and then spend a week on the points in favor of each one.

Part of the problem, of course, is that actual evidence is scarce in this debate. There were only sixty-four games played last year between Western and Southeastern teams, and many of those featured teams like Centenary who don't really have a Western counterpart, so there's not much way to base it on direct results. That leaves either counting post-season coups like CWS appearances or titles or using numerical methods like the ISR's, which are mistrusted by some because they involve, like, math and computers and stuff. Nonetheless, I'll present what I can find.

The Positions

Here are the various positions, as best as I can boil them down into words more intelligent than "We roolz":

So, we at least have a framework to start with. I'll try to be on time next week and do a thorough job on this, so maybe we can come up with something worth referring to the next time this beast rears its ugly head. If you hold a view that's not on the list (other than "I don't care"; believe me, I've got that one covered), let me know and I'll consider it for inclusion. If you have evidence you'd like considered for inclusion, send it on. If you just want to rant about how I'm incredibly dense for not seeing the truth on this matter, send that and I'll file it with the others.

Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Peace in Our Time? Part II: The West About the author, Boyd Nation