We’ve now reached the portion of the holiday season where college football fans – seemingly a lot of them, anyway – start bitching and moaning about the large number of bowl games.
“Who cares about the Shawshank Shiv Bowl?”
“How dare ESPN televise bowls I care nothing about!”
“Having a bowl in the Bahamas is un-American!”
I’ll bet the gatekeepers of all that is good and righteous about major college football were indignant last Saturday when five bowl games (plus the Football Championship Subdivision Celebration Bowl) littered the airwaves.
But you know what?
I hooked up to the Google Machine and have determined that there is absolutely no enforceable law on any book that requires you to watch a single bowl game.
Seriously, you can ignore all of them without fear that a SWAT team will bust down your door, tie you in a chair, and force you to experience the Frisco Bowl Clockwork Orange-style.
With all the real problems in the real world, bowls ain’t among ‘em.
But since we’re on the subject, I’ll let you in on a little secret; with the glut of college football on TV, I’m kinda tired of it by mid-December. That being the case, there are only five bowls I plan to watch, and I’m about to check one off the list.
Tonight, I’ll see UAB play Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl because I’m a fan of the Blazers.
That’s the only reason.
Had the game featured, say, Louisiana Tech against Northern Illinois, I would’ve ignored it, choosing instead to watch “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” on A&E. That’s a really fascinating series, and I always hold out hope that at some point Kevin James and Jerry Stiller will show up and we can have a mini “King of Queens” reunion.
I also plan to watch the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 29, just to see if unbeaten Central Florida can stay perfect and defeat SEC foe LSU.
As a fan of a Group of 5 team, I like it when Cinderella* gets the chance to slipper-whip a Power 5 school.
* UCF is no longer a “Cinderella,” but since the school is in the shadow of Disney World, the description seems appropriate. Plus, I really wanted to use the phrase “slipper-whip.”
Finally, I’ll watch the Cotton Bowl (Notre Dame vs. Clemson), Orange Bowl (Oklahoma vs. Alabama) and College Football Playoff National Championship.
Even though it still makes me snort-laugh to think the NCAA considers culling four teams out of 130 a legitimate “playoff,” those are the three games that make up the major college football Final Four, and they interest me.
Now admittedly, things have changed dramatically since the days when bowls were considered “special.”
Back in the pre-parity era and before the glut of televised games, postseason matchups were designed as rewards for good seasons and often featured matchups between teams that rarely played.
In 1970, for example – about the time I really started paying attention to college football – there were only 10 bowl games and I watched as many as I could. All the biggies (Cotton, Sugar, Orange and Rose) were played on New Year’s Day, capping off a season where only 20 teams got to play beyond the regular season and a mythical* national champion was crowned.
* Sorry to use an asterisk again, but I also chuckle at the term “mythical national champion.” The teams declared the champion were quite real, even though the selection process might’ve been flawed.
Over the years, of course, more and more bowls have been added (40 this year) to the point that now it’s often hard to find teams with winning records to fill the slots.
With the number of 6-6 teams that earn berths, the only “reward” from some bowl games is finishing a game above .500
But again, so what?
ESPN Events outright owns 13 of the bowls currently on the schedule and 32 are televised on either ESPN or ESPN2. And the sports network couldn’t care less if there are 50,000 or 5,000 people in the stands because these games are designed to provide live programming.
And traditionally, they get good ratings.
While you or I might not be interested in the Potato Bowl, ESPN is most certainly interested in all the couch potatoes who are.
So sure, if you want to shake your fist because teams you deem unworthy of a bowl game are in bowl games, knock yourself out.
Or, you can do like me and simply ignore the games you aren’t interested in watching.
Because if 6-6 Vanderbilt playing 6-6 Baylor in the Texas Bowl is going to adversely affect your life, perhaps it’s time for some serious self-reflection.