It's the whole AKC "machine" that's the problem. The conformation breeders have co-opted the breed and next thing you know John Q. Public *believes* that the dogs they see on TV at Westminster or Crufts are the "true border collie." No, the conformation breeders won't prevent good working dogs from being bred, but they will prevent most people who don't know any better than to think the AKC is the standard of purebred dogs from recognizing that the working border collie in all its diversity is the true border collie. I mentioned in another post not too long ago after helping with a sheepdog demo at an open farm day that every single person who asked me about my dogs asked me what breed they are, and when I asked in return if they had an impression that border collies were only what you see at Westminster, they all said yes. I then went on to explain why that wasn't true, but it was evidence enough of the power of the AKC and conformation breeding to influence average people with regard to what a particular breed is, looks like, and should be.
I haven't finished reading this thread yet (and normally, I try to read all the way through before commenting), but Julie's comment here struck me because I heard someone say something along these lines the other day. There were several border collies congregated--and they included our Rafe--a smoothie-with only a few hairs of white on his tri-colored face--with floppy, airplane ears, etc, who no one away from a trial field EVER thinks is a "purebred" border collie . Someone pointed to a classic BW, rough coat out of conformation lines and said to a non-dog-fanatic, "Now *that's* a Border Collie".
Of course, they weren't wrong--that is a border collie--BUT, the exchange illustrates the same point Julie is making and the "lie" inherent in the conformation standard at all--which espouses all kinds of variations--few of which show up in the breed ring--and even fewer of which show up at shows such as Westminster. That does affect the breed over time--I suppose it's mostly a question of how.
At a different spot, someone who does AKC herding events mentioned a judge recently saying (as this person walked to the post with a rescue BC) that he didn't particularly like border collies--a sentiment I have heard on more than one occassion from folks who attend those kinds of herding events.
Of course, to each his own I suppose--but I really can't understand why people who have these kinds of things directed toward them and their dogs (or who know about such things) continue to give even a dollar to the AKC. [ETA: whether in the show ring or in other venues sponsored by the AKC]
I once planned on getting an ILP for Pippin so I could do some AKC agility trials with her (even though I was offended that I couldn't get one for Renzo since he's a unique breed of one--something clearly relevant on an agility course....). I was too lazy to get around to it and now I am so glad I didn't.