There’s a pivotal scene in season four of The Wire where Bodie — a weathered drug gang lieutenant who had seen his aspirations and ambitions crushed by the ruthlessness and greed of the new kingpin — sits in a park with Detective McNulty to eat lake trout and bare his soul. In the process, he utters an unforgettable, almost universal, line:
The game is rigged, man. We like them little bitches on the chess board.
Well, if anything is clear after Boise State pulled the plug on the grand Big East experiment today and paved the way for SDSU’s walk of shame back to the Mountain West, it’s that we are still — and will likely always be — them little bitches on the chess board. Also, shortly after that scene, Bodie gets shot in the head*. I’d say that’s roughly what we have to look forward to now, in terms of college football relevance.
Oy. There was so much optimism at this time last year, wasn’t there? For example, check out this pie-in-the-sky bullshit written by some hack SDSU blogger when the Big East gambit first became official.
Man, what a rube.
Now everything has blown up in our faces and we have to stand on Craig Thompson’s doorstep with hat in hand. Yet while it’s natural to want to lash out, I still don’t blame Jim Sterk for being proactive and taking the chance he took. The endgame he was striving for was financial stability, increased exposure and prestige, and — if all went well — better positioning for the next round of major conference expansion (to keep up the Bodie metaphor, ditching the MWC was the equivalent of killing Wallace).
And we would have gotten away with it, too, were it not for that pesky rigged game.
In the end, we should have known it was too good to be true. That more expansion was on the way. That the television dollars would fall short. That the programs that stuck their necks out would be exposing themselves to the executioner’s axe.
So what now?
Craig Thompson and the rest of the MWC schools will take their well-deserved victory lap. We’ll twist in the wind for a bit, but ultimately I’d be shocked if we don’t find our old bunk awaiting (though I also wouldn’t be shocked if UNLV took a dump in it). And, in the meantime, we’ll get reacquainted with an indisputable fact: The cartel of schools that controls big-time college football has no incentive to ever loosen its stranglehold on the industry or let new members into their club.
We can aspire all we want, but this will always be the result. We will always be on the outside looking in, faces pressed against the glass.
The game is rigged, man.
But hey, at least there will be fewer basketball games is high school gyms! So, you know, there’s that.
* Spoiler alert!