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Sports and geography do not mix

Have you ever wondered if the guys who drew up the divisions and conferences for professional and collegiate sports ever looked at a map? 

Trying to make sense of regional labels on athletic divisions in college and pro sports can be a head-scratching and confusing process. Take the National Football League for example.

The St. Louis Rams play in the NFC West while the Dallas Cowboys play in the NFC East. Newsflash; Dallas, Texas is roughly 400 miles west of St. Louis, Mo.

The Indianapolis Colts are further north than three teams that play their home games east of the Mississippi River; Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Miami. In fact, the Dolphins’ stadium is over 1,000 miles south of Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, and yet, the Colts play in the AFC South.

How about the Buffalo Bills? The Bills play in the AFC East, but Buffalo, N.Y. is further north than any team that plays in the AFC North.

Collegiate athletics also have their fair share of geographic faux pas when it comes to regionally defining conferences, especially since conferences  are beginning to expand frequently. 

 Texas Christian University will leave the Mountain West Conference in 2013 after accepting a bid to play in the Big East Conference, meaning the Dallas Cowboys aren’t the only team from Texas that thinks longitude is a formation from the spread-offense. 

Fort Worth, Texas representing the Big East? Mind boggling. The Horned Frogs of TCU will have to travel almost 900 miles to play their closest conference opponent, and nearly 1,800 miles when they have to trek to the University of Connecticut every other year. 

The Pacific-12 Conference, formerly the Pacific-10, has also brought in two new teams that do not necessarily fit the regional mold.

To be quite honest, there is nothing Pacific about Salt Lake City, Utah or Boulder, Colo. In fact, Colorado’s campus is 1,000 miles from the Pacific Ocean nestled on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. 

Leagues have realigned in the past to make the geography of their sport a little less confusing. 

Before Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig realigned the outlook of the American and National League divisions in 1993, the Atlanta Braves played in the NL West.

Traditionalists might not share my frustration because they consider rivalries in divisions and conferences to be too important to split up, and in some cases I would agree, but really... it’s not like the Cowboys would never play the Eagles again, and it has been ages since the Dolphins or Bills have been relevant in the AFC East, so what’s the harm?

Think about how many hours a week students from TCU and Colorado will spend traveling instead of studying when they begin their conference schedules this fall because their respective universities failed to break out the ole atlas before jumping to a new conference. 

Maybe we should be calling for a petition to have maps printed on footballs, or basketballs to be replaced with inflated globes.

Or maybe Miss South Carolina 2007, Caitlin Upton, was right when she infamously stated, “I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to [locate the U.S. on a world map]  because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps.”

When looking at how some of these divisions and conferences are put together, I would almost have to agree with her.

(The views expressed in this column are the opinion of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Independent Appeal or its owner.)

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