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October 24, 2003

by Bill Hogan



When you're a kid, everything that happens to you is a big deal. When something goes wrong, no matter how inconsequential, it seems like the end of the world. A toy is mysteriously missing; the boy next door is riding your bike; your sister is using your favorite blue crayon. The sky may as well be falling.

You rant, you rave, and every tormented word oozes melodrama. You seek, nay demand, swift and harsh retribution for the perpetrators. Your mom – who's heard it all before, a thousand times – no longer appeases your tantrum and insists that you not make a federal case out of it.


It was just her way of letting you know that you're blowing things way out of proportion. The disappearance of your toy and the unauthorized use of your bike and favorite crayon are problems that can be easily resolved in-house and do not warrant a federal investigation.

There are some problems that are serious enough to require intervention at the federal level. The topic of a recent U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was: "Protecting Our National Security from Terrorist Attacks: A Review of Criminal Terrorism Investigations and Prosecutions." Now that's an issue out of which it is worth making a federal case.

Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch opened the hearing by stating to the other 18 bi-partisan committee members that "[t]he first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens." Senator Hatch reminded the committee that it was up to them "…to see that our Nation's laws and law enforcement network is up to the challenging task of thwarting terrorist attacks."

Kinda makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it? Secure in the knowledge that our fine elected officials are on the ball, putting their time to good use examining national security policies in order to make our lives more secure. Sure makes me sleep better at night. I can hardly wait to see what's on the committee's agenda next week.

As luck would have it, I happen to have a list of upcoming hearings. Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will meet to discuss another issue of national importance: "BCS or Bust: Competitive and Economic Effects of the Bowl Championship Series On and Off the Field."

I realize that college football's current system for determining a national champion is somewhat flawed. It's subjective, biased and, to a certain extent, exclusionary. It's unfortunate that schools like Northern Illinois (currently 7-0) and Texas Christian (also 7-0) – two of only five undefeated division I-A teams – have no realistic chance of playing for the national championship.

But did they have to go and make a federal case out of this? Is this really an issue that requires the attention of the U.S. Senate? I'm sure Judiciary Committee member Ted Kennedy would rather attend the grand opening of another chic D.C. martini bar than discuss the merits of TCU's strength of schedule.

The fact is that since World War II, with one exception, every National Championship has been won by one of the 63 schools associated with the BCS system. Sure, you can argue that it doesn't matter; that every school should have a shot a winning the title – and a piece of the multi-million dollar BCS pie; and you can argue that the current system isn't working and never will.

The issue makes for a great debate when your sitting on a bar stool or calling in to a sports radio show. But when Chairman Hatch said "the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens," he wasn't talking about guarding us against a less than entertaining Sugar Bowl.

What's next on the Senate Judiciary Committee's agenda? Determining the legitimacy of the designated hitter? Examining whether there is really any reason for the Professional Bowlers Tour to exist? Debating the merits of "tastes great" verses "less filling"?

If that's the case, then Mom was wrong and I'd like them to launch a full scale investigation into the mysterious disappearance of a 35-year-old G.I. Joe. And bring my sister before the committee to explain why she wore my cadet-blue Crayola down to the nub – without permission.

At the end of the day, I'm not going to lose any sleep over which teams the BCS decides to select for their national championship game. I can't say the same for some of the other, slightly more important, national concerns confronting our elected officials.


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