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Article posted: 12/4/2012 5:30 AM

Talking heads' outrage better served on bigger issues than NIU

By Mike Imrem

The problem with sports is there's no sense of humor anymore.

Just about every ESPN college football analyst described Northern Illinois' berth in the Orange Bowl against Florida State as a joke.

Yet none of them laughed.

Lighten up, fellas. Your outrage on the BCS selection show Sunday night nearly shattered a lamp in my family room.

ESPN's heads shook. Teeth gnashed. Brows furled. Veins bulged. Noses snarled.

You might have thought somebody vandalized the Vatican or spray painted the White House gray.

This isn't religion or government. It's football, which isn't supposed to be taken all that seriously.

OK, sometimes serious is appropriate. If the TV gang wants to express outrage, plenty of issues provide the opportunity.

How about coaches, including NIU's Dave Doeren, leaving old jobs for new jobs before the old job's season is over?

How about the mantra in college football being that it's OK to cheat because everybody does it?

How about conference realignments plunging the sport even deeper into the cesspool of commercialism?

Northern Illinois going to the Orange Bowl doesn't add up to a single pixel on a TV screen when pondering all that's wrong with college athletics.

Yet the sport's supporters -- not just ESPN but many fans, journalists and school administrators -- object to the system that facilitated the Huskies' trip to Miami.

One of the objections is that a school like Oklahoma, which clearly has better credentials, was left out of the BCS games.

Sorry, that isn't drawing many tears around here.

Oklahoma was in a BCS game two years ago, so many of the current Sooners have enjoyed the experience.

Not only that, but Oklahoma has been in eight BCS games during this young century and there's a good chance that the Sooners will be in another next season.

This is perhaps NIU's single shot. The chances of the Huskies being in a future Orange, Sugar, Fiesta or dare we say Rose Bowl are fourth and forever.

But game results fell where they did this season, NIU did what it had to do, votes were cast, computers spit out data, the system spoke and the Huskies are headed to Miami.

Like college football or not, it will survive Northern Illinois playing in the Orange Bowl. For better or worse, you decide, so will ESPN.

The sport's community might as well quit taking itself so seriously and the BCS so importantly.

Does NIU belong in the Orange Bowl? Of course not if you're talking about relative schedules, budgets and blue chippers dictating who should beat whom on most given days.

Does it really matter, though? We're talking about intercollegiate athletics here, not the carnage in Middle East hot spots or homelessness on Midwest cold spots.

More precisely we're talking about bowls. Except for maybe the championship game, they're essentially exhibitions.

Northern Illinois might as well be embraced as a Cinderella -- like unworthy teams that surprise worthy teams in the NCAA basketball tournament are.

Just think how many giggles we could get at ESPN's expense if NIU upsets Florida State or merely gives the Seminoles a competitive game.

On the BCS announcement show, the analysts were startled to hear FSU opened as only 7-point favorites. The spread was up to a couple touchdowns by morning.

Anyway, the Huskies wanted attention, so regardless of what anyone wants to say about them, just spell the name right. N-I-U.

And, please, smile as you do.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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