'Tis the season of giving once again and in the eyes of college football, they apparently can't give enough. Yes, it's that wonderful time of the year when the rewards for a long and sometimes less-than-stellar college football season get doled out. The college bowl season is upon, or, as I like to call it, Bowl-a-Palooza.
I liken it to the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Luby's or any other all-you-can-eat buffet. Let's be honest -- unless you're trying to get on the next episode of America's biggest loser, how many plates of shrimp fried rice or endless platter of pancakes can you eat before succumbing to a food coma?
This is the all-you-can-eat buffet on steroids. As if 34 bowl games wasn't enough -- that's how many there were last year -- the fine folks in college football gifted us another one for a nice round figure of 35. Of those 70 teams participating in the bowl games, 14 of them have just six wins. Of the remaining 56 clubs, 18 have seven wins.
This debate has been raging for the last several years now and I don't expect it to go away anytime soon: How many bowl games are too many? I realize that players and coaches put a lot of work in to their sport, but does 6-6 really justify a reward?
ASU fans were hoping their team would get an exemption to participate in a bowl game. My question was why? Great, you won your last two games to avoid another losing season, but was a bowl berth really earned just because of that? Go ask the fans at Arizona how excited they are to be playing in the Alamo Bowl instead of a BCS berth and big bowl, not to mention a big payout. They're still reeling from a season-ending losing streak and knowing they lost to their state rivals.
The bigger question is how do some of these bowls survive? Not that survival is an issue for the Fiesta Bowl or the up-and-coming Insight Bowl, but look at the match-ups our two local bowls have and I can tell you right now there are going to be plenty of tickets available.
UConn and OU. Neither one has sold their allotted tickets nor is it like you're going to get a big walkup to see the Huskies taking on the Sooners. Even the diehard Sooner fans are passing on this one despite the chance to sit in the Arizona sunshine for a few days. Bad match-ups are hard sells.
The folks at the Insight Bowl got their best conference-to-conference match-up since the bowl's inception (Big 12 vs Big 10), but Hawkeye fans are still steamed at their club's losing streak to end the season and Mizzou fans can't justify dropping some dollars just to get a tan no matter how badly they need some sunshine on those white, pasty arms.
These are just examples of our two local bowls. Imagine trying to sell the match-up in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg between a 6-6 Louisville team and an eight-win Southern Miss club. How much money is Beef O'Brady's putting into the game? How many of you knew what Beef O'Brady's was when the bowl was announced? Despite a bowl that's being played in the worst baseball stadium in the country, the 240-unit sports bar chain felt it was worth the money to get a little national exposure.
Who knows, maybe in an effort to take a bite out of the unemployment rate President Obama will end his desire for a national playoff and just mandate more bowl games be added? It means job creation, of course, and jobs are a good thing. Of course, there's that little matter of finding sponsors for the newly-created 25 bowl games, but I'm sure some company out there has always wanted to be a bowl sponsor.
Despite all the bleak numbers I've shared, the one thing the Bowl-a-Palooza has done is generate viewers.
According to a number of reports from last year's bowl games, the actual viewership of the 34 bowls was up by 8% overall. Now mind you, that's a collective rating that takes all of the games' ratings and combines them. There were still several bowl match-ups that saw declines in ratings from year to year. Odds are, with this year's National Championship match-up of Auburn and Oregon being the game everyone wanted, that game figures to be a ratings bonanza and when all of the dust settles, you'll likely see another ratings jump this year.
So what does all of this say about we Americans and our love of college football? It says that if there's a game of organized football on TV somewhere, we're likely to watch it ... at least for a little bit, at the store while you're returning that Shake Weight you got for Christmas or in the airport bar while your flight back to Cincinnati is delayed four hours.
Maybe there's something appealing to Louisville and Southern Miss for you. You like moo gu pork -- me, not so much.
So I offer you this little nugget before bellying up to the all-you-can-consume bowl buffet: Remember, it's a long three-week stretch and you probably want to go light on the New Era Pinstripe bowl or Franklin American Mortgage Music City bowl so you can save room for the main course in the National Championship. Unlike the people at Bowl Inc., moderation isn't a bad thing.