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There has been no shortage of criticism in this space for the BCS, college football's answer to the guy in the NHL office who declared, "Hey, our game won't suffer at all if we remove it from the sporting landscape for a season or two." The BCS is asinine and possibly more flawed than the footage that didn't find its way into Alexander. How bad must that be?
Since all right-thinking people agree there must be a college football playoff immediately, El Hombre promises to leave that topic alone for now. Instead, he offers up a curveball of sorts -- a paean (look it up) to the wonders of New Year's Day.
Since he was a mere muchacho, El Hombre has been in love with Jan. 1. Back in those simpler times, there wasn't a six-game bowl bonanza, just the Cotton, Rose and Orange tilts, shown one after another in an 11-hour cavalcade of color (actually, our TV was black and white) and pageantry. The Sugar Bowl was in there, too, although it did have a four-year New Year's Eve run in the mid-1970s. At a time when it was hard to get more than one college game delivered each Saturday, a day with three or four contests was a pre-teen fanatic's equivalent of an evening with the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders.
Nothing could distract El Muchacho from beginning his year with an overdose of pigskin. OK, there was one nemesis: the dreaded Mummers Parade. Once a year, hundreds of silly Philadelphians prance up Broad Street in a rush of feathers, bad music and inebriation. The city's fathers call it a wonderful tradition. El Hombre considers it a municipal black eye. And in the early '70s, local TV affiliates' coverage of this cultural blight pre-empted football. To this day, El Hombre hates the Mummers and always will.
Anyway, Jan. 1 was always a special day. It was about Cotton Spreyer's fourth-down reception against Notre Dame, Michigan's blowing a Rose Bowl, Nebraska's improbable '70 climb to No. 1, Tom Clements and ND's overcoming Alabama, John Sciarra and his crew's upset of the Buckeyes, Michigan's blowing another Rose Bowl and Alabama's (All hail Barry Krauss!) goal-line stand against Penn State. Magic, pure magic.
For a while there in the '90s, New Year's Day became almost too big, with as many as eight bowl games on the big day. Now that required some talent. Four TVs. The world's shortest attention span. But somehow, El Hombre and his devoted cadre of bowl aficionados met the challenge.
This Saturday, it cranks up all over again, significant others be damned. Sure, six games in one day can hardly be considered a bonanza in this digitized world of pay-per-view packages and cable stations that can bring upward of 25 contests to us on any given Saturday. In fact, it seems rather paltry, especially when one considers that from about 5 p.m. EST until midnight, there will be just one game on at a time. One. Holy 1968, Batman! But for three-plus hours, that one will be the Rose Bowl. The Granddaddy. The gold standard for every other post-season "classic." There will be the beautifully painted field and the team jerseys with those special patches. (It's the little things, really.) If that doesn't have you a little nostalgic for Sam "The Bam" Cunningham, Spider Gaines and Shelton Diggs, then you had better turn on Comedy Central, because you're no football fan.
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El Hombre will be front and center for all the action, working the four sets, clogging his arteries with deli meats and cheeses and applying copious doses of malt beverages. This is the unofficial end of the college football season. Even though there are two more bowl matchups, including the "championship game" on Jan. 4, this is the farewell. In September, we know there are several more weeks ahead of us. On New Year's Day, we're staring at a long spring and hot summer of designated hitter-poisoned baseball marathons and NBA playoffs. Oh, the pain.
That's why every college football fan owes it to himself to be alert and ready when the Outback and Cotton Bowls kick off at 11 a.m. EST Saturday, even if that means dialing it back a bit New Year's Eve. Watch every minute, so you don't miss the next improbable upset (Stanford over Ohio State, 1971 Rose), wild comeback (Notre Dame over Houston, 1979 Cotton) and out-of-nowhere hero (Arkansas RB Roland Sales, 1978 Orange). There is nothing better than New Year's Day.
Until we get Quarterfinal Saturday. Then we put away all the nostalgia and head full speed into a glorious future.
El Hombre Sez
Anybody else think Ohio State's football program is completely out of control? It looks like Andy Geiger and Jim Tressel decided to follow the Switzer Model. If the NC2A leadership were smart(!), it would devote every available gumshoe to finding out just what's going on in Columbus. But spare Ted Ginn at all costs. He's unbelievable. ... If the Yankees do indeed buy Randy Johnson from the Diamondbacks for a few prospects, a grumpy pitcher (Javier Vasquez) and about $12 million, can we start calling George Steinbrenner "Montgomery Burns" and expect him to send Brian Cashman to superstars' homes with bags of money, just like Burns dispatched Smithers during The Simpsons episode in which he stacked the company softball team?
And Another Thing
OK, here's how it's going to shake down in Miami Jan. 4: USC will get enough pressure on Jason White from its front four and the occasional blitzer to allow its corners to press the OU receivers on the outside while still getting safety support over the top. Since White can't move, he'll be hit more times than the Paris Hilton video Web site. And since the Sooners play in the Big 12, where real passing attacks are curiosities and curiosities (Texas Tech, Kansas) are considered real passing attacks, expect Matt Leinart to throw for 300 or so, and Reggie Bush nearly to drown in a puddle of his own drool when he discovers a linebacker covering him in the slot. Final: USC 27, Oklahoma 17.