By Keith Petersen

Congress may punt on health care, fumble on the economy, and call for a fair catch on climate change, but bring up a college football playoff, and it's Katy-bar-the-door.

Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas, recently pushed a bill on the issue through a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. It would prevent the Bowl Championship Series from calling its matchup of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams a national championship game because it was not the result of a playoff. Seriously.

If Congress wants to shovel out the mess that is the BCS, then fellas, knock yourselves out and wash up before you come indoors. But some perspective is in order.

The arguments against the bowl system are familiar after a dozen years of bizarre matchups based on cumbersome computer formulas: The BCS is a monopoly. It's all about the money. It's the only division of college sports without a playoff. It's an outrage that undefeated Cincinnati/TCU/Boise State is shut out of a shot at the title.

There is no doubt that the BCS looks out for its own. Each of its six member conferences (the Big East, Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Southeast, and Pacific Ten) receives an automatic bid to one of the five major bowls, and the rest are left to hope, pray, and lobby their way in to grab a chunk of the revenue. A playoff would upset the cash flow, and none of the big conferences is interested in losing money.

But is it an outrage requiring congressional intervention? It's not as if a few college programs are monopolizing the major bowls, especially this year. Oregon, Iowa, and Georgia Tech are playing well after USC, Penn State, and Miami have pulled off their pads. Even Temple is in a bowl, while Michigan and Notre Dame sit at home and stew. Money can't buy you love, wins, or a berth in a major bowl.

For those who take umbrage at the fact that their Bearcats/Frogs/Broncos got the short end, a word of wisdom: It could be worse.

Texas Christian alums like me know from disappointment and outrage, and not being able to play for a national championship for the 71st year in a row isn't quite either.

Outrage is living through a four-year black hole of gridiron futility, during which students in the bleachers were as likely to pass out from the bad football as they were from the relentless Texas heat. It's being on the wrong side of 63-6 and 58-0 and 51-0.

Sure, some great players came through Fort Worth in the late '70s, but they were usually on the visitors' sideline. When a Heisman winner (Pat Sullivan) did appear on campus in the '90s, it was as a head coach who briefly pulled the program above water, recruited LaDainian Tomlinson, and, in a reversion to the mean, went 1-10.

Playing in January? That's not an outrage. That's a miracle.

So, Congressman Barton, good luck with your quest. Mine is simpler: Give 'em hell, TCU!

Keith Petersen is an Inquirer editor. He can be reached at kpetersen@phillynews.com.