“I’ll tell you what the issue is,” says a barber somewhere in the Midwest, sizing up another over-grown lock about to be attacked with clippers. “You flip on ESPN right after Christmas, and instead of 2 good teams they give you Northern-Tech-Whoever against Bowling Green.”
It’s a common gripe – too many bowl games amounts to watered-down holiday football viewing. While issues like elections, street crime, and animal rights surely pale in comparison to the annual college-gridiron crisis (Bowling Green and leftover ham? The horror!), we console ourselves by looking at some positives – and reasons why most of the bowl-overload talk is empty air.
Excess Bowls Will Not Corrupt Your Children
Those lamenting “bad” bowls are either watching on TV (how else would they know the games are bad?) or assuming the scrums are sloppy and unwatchable. The solution to this first-world hardship is absurdly simple – if you’re not interested in either team, don’t watch.
A similar argument has been made vis-a-vis R and X-rated content – social conservatives should simply not watch, as opposed to tuning in only to be offended. But pro-censorship parents may be concerned about their kids’ accessibility to portrayals of extreme violence, for instance.
But if you’re a bowl-hater whose kids discover a team from the MAC playing a team from the Sun Belt on TV, don’t despair. The violence of Kent State vs Troy is actually less extreme than when 2 bigger, stronger football teams play. The worst that can happen is your daughter will have to listen to grown-ups complain about the game taking place, as if it interferes with their lives somehow.
Level vs Quality
A serious vocabulary problem is found buried in the chatter about “quality” of bowl games. We saw Army beat North Texas 38-31 in overtime in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Each team only committed 1 turnover, and the finish was exciting as could be. But while the level of play might not have been top-notch (each team would be a heavy underdog against Ohio State), the quality of the game wasn’t bad at all, as 2 up-and-coming programs duked it out to a 5th period.
If the level of size, speed and talent between 2 competitors was always synonymous with quality and fun, then the worst NFL game ever played would be more enjoyable than the 2013 Iron Bowl.
The Endless “Money” Trope is Deceiving
When a TV pundit smirks and declares the annoyance of minor bowl games to be “all about money,” there is hypocrisy at work.
College football is such a lopsided business that 90% of fan and media resources are constantly poured into the SEC, the Big Ten, and a couple other strong-holds. The CFP and New Year’s Six bowls make a lot of money for a lot of people, so why shouldn’t North Texas get paid a pittance for playing in a smaller event? The Mean Green might even do something meaningful with their loot, like upgrading practice facilities instead of lavishing boosters.
The Bowl System is not Perfect
There are, indeed, many things the NCAA could do to sharpen the annual slate of bowl games. Ruling that only teams with a winning record can participate, for instance, or offering even more favor to schools with high academic standards.
But the argument that catch-as-catch-can bowl games “devalue” the bigger contests is bunk. The marquee bowls are already valued a million times higher than pre-New Year’s Eve clashes and are the only post-season games which receive more than obligatory recaps in the national press.
Perhaps Power-5 fans see their favorite programs being soiled by playing in the same batch of holiday games – non-championship bowls – that Sun Belt and MWC teams play in.
There’s a word for that. It’s called snobbery.
Here’s hoping for another full slate of NCAA bowl games next season, just for everyone to grumble and complain about. What better way to underscore our lack of real problems?