As it turns out, achieving one of the biggest goals you ever dared dream initially does not feel so good.
It is all heavy breathing and tangled bodies and claustrophobic closeness and whoops ringing in the ears. So it was only after the TCU baseball team unpiled and soaked in Longhorns fans grudgingly applauding and family and friends crying that it hit them.
They were going to the College World Series, the first Horned Frogs team to do so, and the path to Omaha was paved not by politics or conference affiliation or anything other than being better.
Because what if college baseball were as stupid as college football?
What if, after that amazing game, a BcS-like entity stepped in and “graciously allowed” TCU to play not quite in Omaha, not quite for a championship.
“I don’t know what (it) would be like,” Horned Frogs catcher Bryan Holaday said. “I’m just glad I play baseball.”
Because if this were college football, there would not have been a series in Austin to win, or one the previous weekend in Fort Worth. Instead, the Longhorns would be playing Florida State in Omaha based on RPI and basketball points and conference affiliation and a huge, traveling fan base and 457 things that have nothing to do with baseball.
Or exactly all of the silliness that goes into determining a football national championship, as Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson, among many, has learned in recent seasons.
“A couple of years ago, I told Gary, ’How can you coach in a sport where, if you win every game, you can’t play for the whole thing? How can you go to work every day?”’ TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle said, recounting a conversation he had with his close friend. “I think there is an avenue now where they can do it, but it’s a very small window. The problem in his deal is so much of it is out of his control.”
Patterson remembers that conversation. He did not have much of a response for him then, or now. He instead congratulated Schloss for building a program capable of taking advantage of college baseball’s egalitarian approach to championships and hopes for a day when everything is possible for all of TCU’s teams.
“That’s what we are working towards,” Patterson said. “We have proven that we can be there. That’s all we can control. And if that is not enough, then we shouldn’t talk about quality of teams. All we are talking about is conferences and money. And then we have proven the point that we shouldn’t have a playoff because we don’t want to find a national champion.”
Slow down with flipping this into another round of Patterson opposes a playoff. That story circulated in December, implying Patterson was pro-BcS. It was sexy, Mountain West school backs BcS. It garnered a lot of traction. It was also wrong.
“I am not against a playoff,” Patterson said.
Gary very much wants a playoff; if the winner of the Mountain West is guaranteed an automatic spot in that field of eight, just like The Big 12-that is 10 and Big Ten-that is 12 and Pac-10-that is 12 and wisely named SEC. “Not the undefeated winner of the Mountain West,” he said, “but the winner gets in.” What he said was, right now, as is, TCU is more likely to play for a national championship in a jacked-up BcS system than in a TBD playoff format likely to be brought to us by the same folks.
That is why the whole College World Series is so refreshingly fun. The best teams go and the team that wins the most games is national champion and nobody has to bust anything or politic or whine.