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It's a complaint you can't get away from this time of year. It's as common and pointless as someone whining about the weather, traffic or reality television.
"There's too many bowl games!"
You hear it all the time from your friends, especially when they hear you're watching the Continental Tire Bowl over a bowl of Rice Krispies Thursday morning. Any bowl game that takes place prior to New Year's Eve or that doesn't feature Top 25 teams is meaningless to these people.
I've never understood their rationale. There can never be enough bowls on my schedule. Emerald Bowl? Yes please. Las Vegas Bowl? You bet. MPC Computers Bowl? Boot it up. Salad Bowl? I'll take seconds. Toilet Bowl? I'm sure it will come in handy. Keep them all coming early and often.
Say what you will about these "lower-tier" bowls, but to the teams that play in them, the coaches that coach in them and the fans that travel to them, no game is bigger. For some it's the end of a career, for others it's an end of a season and a springboard toward next year. What it's not, however, is a meaningless game.
Unlike many end-of-the-season games in the NFL, you will never see a college football game in December or January have a preseason feel. No college football fan that buys a ticket to a late-season game will ever have to watch their star quarterback and other first teamers stand on the sideline and laugh it up while they get blown out.
Every bowl game, no matter how big or small, seems to have at least one interesting story line. From Timmy Chang setting NCAA records in his final game at Hawaii to Ohio State playing the other OSU amidst it's program's newfound scandals to Cal playing Texas Tech, a few miles away from and a few days before the Rose Bowl they feel they should be playing in. And the list goes on and on until we get to the Orange Bowl, which gives us the first-ever meeting between two Heisman trophy winners and could possibly feature four Heisman winners when we look back at the game two years from now.
All these bowl teams are playing with meaning and purpose, knowing that at the end of the game, one team will be holding up a trophy on national television, while the other one will have to wait at least eight months before they can play another game.
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Sometimes even a loss in one of these "meaningless" bowl games can be a launching pad to greater success the following season. Look at this season's national championship game between USC and Oklahoma. The season before winning the Orange Bowl and the national championship in 2001 the Sooners were 7-4 and lost to Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl in Bob Stoops' first season as head coach. The year before winning the Orange Bowl in 2003 the Trojans were 6-6 and lost to Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl in Pete Carroll's first season at USC.
I can already hear you moaning. Who cares about the Independence Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl? We need a playoff system! Fair enough. But wake up folks, we will never have a playoff system in college football. As much as I hate to say it, it will never happen. Explaining why fuddy-duddy athletic directors and university presidents won't sign off on a playoff system for the umpteenth time still won't stop people from crying for it, so I won't try.
As tired as you might be of all these bowl games, that's about as tired as I am of reading and hearing analysts and columnists act like they are reinventing the wheel by proposing their "original" playoff system. It's like listening to your friend brag about inventing a drink that consists of one part gin, two parts tonic water and a lime twist. We've heard it all already, and it's still not going to happen. Please join me in the real world when you get a chance.
Many of you are bothered with the commercialization of these bowls, what with the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl and the EV1.net Houston Bowl, but get over yourselves for a second and look past the advertisements that have become a way of life in sports. Chances are your team plays in an arena or stadium named after an airline that advertises some type of erectile dysfunction drug. It's not like you're going to skip watching the Sugar Bowl or the Orange Bowl because the words Nokia and FedEx are plastered all over the field and stadium.
At the end of the day, it's still college football and what could be better than college football in December and early January? Saying there are too many bowl games is like saying there are too many presents under the Christmas tree. For a society that craves football so much that preseason NFL games do better in the television ratings than the Olympics and regular season baseball games, what's wrong with having 28 bowl games? If nothing else, it beats watching NBA teams going half-speed until the all-star break or NFL teams going through dress rehearsals or packing it in altogether until the playoffs begin.
Heading into the New Year there are may be an abundance of things in your life worth complaining about, but an abundance of college football games should never be one of them.