Sunday, March 03, 2024

THE CHEAP SEATS with STEVE CAMERON: Here's what you can do with your polls and rankings ...

| November 29, 2023 1:30 AM


That’s my answer.

So, naturally you frown and wonder. 

Answer to what?

Well, it’s been my response for many, many years now, when readers (or radio listeners during those gigs) have asked if I vote in the AP football or basketball polls, or for the Heisman Trophy, or for any of various Major League Baseball awards.

So, no.

I don’t have votes, but I have opinions.

Strong ones, in a few cases.

Now, the odd part is that I DID vote on several of these panels — for the AP rankings, for the Heisman (very briefly) and for some MLB awards (once very controversially).

Ultimately, I quit the whole voting process.


Because it varies from meaningless to downright idiotic.

Most of these things only serve the purpose of giving fans something to argue about in saloons.

Everyone walks away thinking they’ve made clever points and, doggone it, they’ve proved they were right all along.

For instance, take the current AP football poll.

Somehow, Washington keeps moving up (to No. 3 at the moment) despite a series of scary, unconvincing wins over a string of poor teams.

If I were still voting, U-Dub would not be No. 3 on my ballot.

No way.

YOU CAN laugh and say, “No wonder you don’t get to vote anymore.”

Fair enough.

You’d actually be making my point; that is, why would I just decide the polls were nonsense and not worth the bother.

Let me turn this around and ask you a question: In your opinion, exactly WHO is qualified to vote in these polls?

I’ll save you the trouble and answer that myself.

No one.


Nobody can possibly see ALL the games involving ALL the teams you’d have to consider for inclusion in your top 25.

How could you?

Sure, if you watch as many live events as possible, view another bundle on TV and stay up all night making notes on recorded games — until your eyes burned with the heat of 10,000 suns — you MIGHT be qualified to rank teams in one region.


But let’s take a voter from the Seattle Times, just for the hell of it.

How many times can he or she possibly see North Carolina State? Or Tulane?

And compare them fairly to Hawaii? 

I hope you're getting the picture.

There are 261 schools playing Division I football, although you can slice that down to a tiny 128 in the FBS.

Can you rank them?


Basketball is even more ridiculous, with 351 schools in Division I.

Believe me, trying to sort them out is a nightmare. 

I did it for three seasons, scrambling to get an almost-fair ballot sent in on Sunday night.

You think you MIGHT have 25 teams whose presence you can defend — and then your No. 16 school gets rumbled by the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Sunday afternoon.

Odds are good that you haven’t even seen that score.

Good luck with your ballot.

I HUNG in there for that stint, sweating out the hoops poll, because I believed I would put more effort into the impossible task than most people.

Finally, I said: “This is nuts!”

The football and basketball rankings, though, make perfect sense (ho, ho) compared to the Heisman Trophy.

I was an elector in that farce for exactly one season.

Voters receive a ballot with no instructions except to choose the best college football player in the United States of America.

Got it?

Surely, you’ve seen every one of them — often enough to make a valid judgment, too.

We’ve already discussed how many teams are involved (except that those 261 are in Division I).

What about Division II? 


OK, you’ve seen some highlights. 

Maybe you’re a beat writer who covers Texas-El Paso, and the best player you saw all season was a safety from New Mexico.

Do you name him for the Heisman?

Of course not.

You vote for the quarterback you’ve seen most often on SportsCenter.

Ironically, the one season I voted before respectfully declining to see any more ballots, my “best player” was an offensive tackle.

Tony Mandarich from Michigan State.

He was a monster.

I saw him live against Illinois and he threw huge human beings around like rag dolls.

How could someone play any position better in college football than Mandarich?

He wound up on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and was drafted No. 2 overall by Green Bay (behind only Troy Aikman and ahead of Deion Sanders, among others).

Mandarich then was a bust in the NFL.

He was accused of being a drug cheat in college, but we didn’t know that at the time.

So, I stand by my vote.*

I’m proud of selecting a lineman before leaving the Heisman in a trash can forever.

Forget the Heisman and all the polls, folks.

No one is qualified to vote.

End of story.


Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns appear in The Press four times each week, normally Tuesday through Friday unless, you know, stuff happens.

Steve suggests you take his opinions in the spirit of a Jimmy Buffett song: “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On.”

*Oh, and Steve would feel even better about his Heisman choice that year if he hadn’t ignored Barry Sanders, who rushed for 2,628 yards at Oklahoma State — still the NCAA record.