Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Unstupiding

 This is the first of an irregular installment that hopes to clear up misconceptions about whatever topic strikes me at the moment.

I spent the better part of this past Friday through Monday watching football. Sure, Sunday was filled with the brand that openly pays players, but the majority of that time was spent watching college bowl games.  Sure, I may have neglected my dog, wife, kid, hygiene, diet and mental and physical health, but I did get to watch a lot of football, so it seems like a fair trade.

But as with most popular things (and despite vast sections of the stadium filled with fans dressed as empty seats, make no mistake, bowl games are popular), there are notions about them that are harder to break than an addiction to something highly addictive. 

Questions abound about the bowl system. Why aren’t there better matchups? Why are there so many games? Who really cares who would win a game between a 6-6 Illinois team and a 6-7 UCLA team? What did ESPN show before it got the rights to virtually every bowl game in existence? Why are you using the writing crutch of asking questions you intend to answer/ (Ok, so that’s not specific to bowl games, but you were wondering). I’ll answer these and many (i.e. maybe one) more below.

Why are there so many games?

The short answer is “Cash.” The longer answer is “Money.” For a slightly longer answer, we turn to noted sports commentator and part time head case Randy Moss who said “straight cash homie.” You get the idea. As with most things in sports, money is the driving motivation. But who gets that money? Well, it turns out the answer is “it depends.” In some cases, the games are part of a larger event for a *cough* non-profit *cough* that donates the revenues to charity. Of course, those events require large amounts of administration and those administrators aren’t independently wealthy, so they take a nice paycheck. The schools or their conferences get some of the money, most of which is spent paying to get the team and band to and from the game. In fact, a lot of schools actually lose money going to bowl games. 

The other reason for all the games is because we keep watching. Yes, I watched the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl and the Little Ceasers Bowl. ESPN is kind enough to put them on during the holidays so we can turn them on to avoid actually interacting with our families except to say “did you see that catch?” or “come here and watch this catch,” or “come here and watch this catch, but while you’re up can you get me a beer?” I know the games are glorified exhibitions, but it beats whatever rerun of CSI: Omaha that’s on the other channels.

Why aren’t there better matchups?

This one’s easy.  Outside of the BCS National Championship Game, the Bowls don’t care about the matchups. After the top two teams (I’ll leave the debate about how they’re selected to someone else), the Bowls have a pre-determined order in selecting teams, often from conferences they have pre-arranged agreements with. So the obvious follow up question is “why am I still reading?” After that, you’d ask yourself “what criteria do the bowls use to select their teams? We again return to the answer to the first question, “cash.”

Bowl games are nothing more than events to draw tourists to a locale. As such, the game’s primary importance is not television ratings or appeal to a national audience. The primary factor for picking teams is “do they travel well” as in “will they buy a lot of tickets and book a lot of hotel rooms and eat in our city’s fine restaurants?” That’s why a team like Boise State (ranked #7) gets sent to Las Vegas to play in a pre-Christmas Bowl while Virginia Tech (ranked #11) gets to go to New Orleans for one of the Big Four bowl games.      

How do they cram all that graham?

I don’t know.

Why does ESPN show virtually every bowl game?

They’re a 24-hour sports network trying to fill inventory in December to people are randomly off in the middle of the day, they don’t care about NBA or College Basketball until after the Super Bowl is over and the need a sports fix.  What, you’d rather they were on HGTV?

What do the games actually mean?

They’re both meaningless exhibitions (to any rational sports fan) and the determining factor of whether a team had a successful season or not (to everyone else.)  Of course, placing such emphasis on one game to define how successful a season was is ludicrous. Even teams who lose in a playoff format will tell you that while they were disappointed, perhaps devastated, to not win the title, they still had a successful season.

Check back next time when The Unstupiding tackles (obligatory unnecessary football phrase) another pressing issue that, in reality, has very little to do with anything. 

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