Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Sons of Lake Gitchee Gumee

We are halfway through the first full week of January '10 and we have yet to put a bow on the college football season. Huh? Unless you were born within the past fifteen years or so - and if you were then the likelihood of you reading this is negligible (as it properly should be for those of you older than fifteen) - you recall a time when New Year's Day represented the finish line for every college football season. Now in the money grab that is the BCS the season draws its last breath this season on Thursday, January 7, 2010.

Ah - the tradition that is college football. Annually, athletic directors and college presidents across the nation pooh-pooh the possibility of Division I teams (USC, Florida, Notre Dame, Penn State, Colorado (just barely these days) to name a few) competing in an actual playoff system at the end of the regular season in an effort to crown a true national champion. It is simply not feasible they claim because competing in a playoff system at this critically important time of year on most schools' academic calendar would put an unfair burden upon student-athletes. By that logic, we should have seen by a veritable spate - or at least an uptick - of reported cases of premature ends to otherwise promising academic careers reported on the campuses of Villanova University and the University of Montana. After all the Wildcats and the Grizzlies (I shall leave it to you to figure out which predator represents which school) each completed fifteen game seasons (including three rounds of playoffs) when they met on Friday, December 18, 2009 - in centrally located Chattanooga Tennessee nonetheless - to play for the Division I-AA National Championship.

I have enjoyed watching college football my entire life and I am among the masses who does not object to the admittedly obscene proliferation of bowl games. If this century has taught us anything thus far, then it is this: with 1897 channels of programming to fill there always has to be something on to watch. Does it always have to be brain salad surgery? Much to the chagrin of Messrs. Emerson, Lake and Palmer it does not. If it did, the Kardashian sisters would all have careers involving paper hats and name tags or neon lights and pasties. Candidly I do not care if it seems as if half of the teams that play Division I college football end up going bowling (although again this year my Alma mater managed to play its way onto the sidelines). Bowl games cost me nothing - other than the time I may wish to invest in watching them. If sponsors can continue to come up with the money to ply schools to come to such exotic locales as Birmingham, Boise and Albuquerque to play a game in front of a half-filled stadium in mid to late December, then I say, "Go forth and multiply!" I believe quite a lot in the free-market system. And as soon as the consumer starts to say, "Nope - not interested in watching or attending this." some of these games will go away forever. The Republic will stand - I assure you - bananas and all.

It is not the number of games that I cannot tolerate, it is the scheduling of them. Once upon a time, the college football season ended in one of two places annually: New Orleans Louisiana or Miami Florida - depending upon whether the Sugar Bowl or the Orange Bowl ended later on New Year's Night. You know what college teams played on January 2nd? None. This year, there were five games played on the day after New Year's Day - including the much anticipated clash between the Bulls of South Florida and the Salukis of Northern Illinois in the International Bowl (a/k/a "The Bowl Game Played in F***ing Canada). As many games kicked off on the 2nd of January as had on New Year's Day. Ridiculous.

Worse yet, it still is not over. Monday night (New Year's Day + 3 Days) Boise State University and Texas Christian University, which brought combined records of 25-0 into the game, played the Fiesta Bowl. Tuesday night (New Year's Day + 4 Days) the Orange Bowl was contested between the University of Iowa and the Ramblin' Wreck of Georgia Tech. Parenthetically they do not play the "Orange Bowl" at the Orange Bowl any longer and have not done so for a number of years. While you let that rattle 'round 'neath your skull cap consider that the Cotton Bowl was played this year for the first time in a stadium other than the Cotton Bowl. Even better consider that the Fiesta Bowl is played annually now in Glendale Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Yep. You heard me right. A university whose home is principally in cyberspace is the title sponsor of a football stadium that seats up to 72,000 fans. As soon as U of Phoe fields a football team, they intend to play their games there.

This season will mercifully come to an end on Thursday night (New Year's Day + 6 Days) when the University of Alabama and the University of Texas meet for the "BCS National Championship". They are the only teams competing this post-season in a game that does not have the word "Bowl" as part of its name. Speaking as a college football fan but someone with no particular rooting interest in this game, I care not who wins. I care only that finally a week after it should have gone gentle into that good night, college football will finally be gone.

If you need to whet your appetite before tomorrow's big game, then perhaps tonight you will want to watch the Obama AdministrationAC (f/k/a "The GMAC") Bowl tonight from Mobile Alabama. I am a betting man so I am betting on the Central Michigan Chippewas. Sure Troy is tough. But as we all know, they are suckers for the trick play.

-AK

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