Tuesday, December 28, 2010

7 comments I Hate Terrible Bowl Games

On a typical night, I peruse the usual channels (ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, ABC, TNT) in search of a mildly entertaining college or professional game, assuming one of my teams is not playing. In the summer, a meaningless baseball game is usually the winner since the WNBA does not peak my interest, despite Diana Taurasi's recently exposed steroid use. Actually, I'm not sure if it was steroids. But because Women's basketball is about as satisfying as a Bill Belichick press conference, I don't even care enough to check. Anyway, back to the point I was trying to make. Now that college basketball, football, the NHL and NBA are in mid-season form (i.e. I'll watch select games because the beginning-of-the-season hype has died and my interest will only reemerge towards the end of the season/playoffs), college football in particular has the opportunity to pounce. We're talking Brad Pitt on Angelina Jolie, Rome on the Mediterranean pouncing. But they do not. They spread out their Bowl games over a month, lessening interest in college football and turning fans away.

Of these previously mentioned sports, only college football matters mid-season. It is the only sport in which a win or loss will continue or destroy a team's season. A playoff system would obviously clear up the issue, but this path has been explored at length. Since eliminating Bowl games is ultimately out of the question, maybe a little rearranging is not.

On Sunday night, the headline on ESPN.com was about the FIU vs. Toledo Little Caesar's Bowl (I know Sunday Night Football would normally be there had the game been played). This, in itself, is a problem for sports junkies. No one cares about FIU or Toledo unless a specific rooting interest exists. In fact, no one really cares about any Bowl game before January 1st. But the geniuses of college football arranged the Bowl schedule like this. As you'll notice, the Bowl season begins with one game a day, then morphs into two, then to three by the time January 1st rolls around. But should we not have the opposite schedule? The less well known teams usually compete in the less well known bowl games. So shouldn't these games be packed together, with the better games separated on different days?

Besides the obvious flaws in the BCS and current bowl game system, college football fails at the most crucial aspect of promoting a sport: maintaining interest. In the NFL, every game has an increasing importance, ultimately leading to the most important game, the Super Bowl. College football, despite its flawed system, perpetuates the same idea. With each successive week, the games carry greater weight. There's a reason why "Lost" and "24" became cult television shows (of which I am a part). Each week built on the next, culminating in a satisfying ending (in the case of Lost, I thought the ending was great. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority in that) or a completely wrap-it-up/tie-up-all-loose-ends ending. The BCS has the same opportunity. The meaningless bowl games can be simply scrunched into one week. And by meaningless, I mean the first 28 games. Four games a day with the first starting at 12:00 P.M. EST, the second at 3:00, the third at 6:00 and the final one at 9:00. This way, there's no overlap and fans do not have to wait to satisfy their college football thirst.

Some would say that the prolonged delay between the important bowl games and regular season builds up interest. In reality, it kills it. The two weeks between the conference championship and the Super Bowl are just long enough to heighten suspense. College football, on the other hand, uses a less effective technique. It's like comparing the effectiveness of Phil Jackson vs. Vinny Del Negro. After the regular season ended, the Oregon/Auburn/TCU chatter was at its peak. Everyone could not wait until the bowl season. But now, the interest is nowhere to be found. Instead, mid-season NBA and college basketball have taken over, transferring everyone's interest away from college football. Once the bowl games roll around, true fans will refocus their interest because they're true fans. No matter what the college football does, these guys will never disappear. But the casual fan is more likely to step away from college football and not return. The chatter dies, and so does the interest. (Saying this feels a little Gregg Easterbrookesque, but my personal experience has proven this to me countless times. But it's also entirely possible that my personal experiences does not represent the millions of other examples. So even if you think I'm off here, at least you can differentiate me from Gregg.) The college football national championship game could be a semi-national holiday as the Super Bowl is. But it's not (it happening on a Monday does not help.)

In week two of the bowl games, Monday would have the two biggest non-BCS games (biggest by program/interest, not bowl game reputation). The rest of the week, leading up to the culmination on Saturday (the National Championship game) would happen on individual days.

The point of this, ultimately, is the title of this post. I hate terrible bowl games. Most people hate the Little Caesar's Bowl and the like as well. So let's get through them as quickly as possible and get to the games that matter.

7 comments:

Bengoodfella said...

I don't despise the BCS and bowl system but it is the only system I know if in sports that isn't what the fans want and admittedly makes the teams the fewest amount of money.

I wouldn't mind the schedule being turned around a bit. Oregon v. Auburn still does have some hype but over a month with no games is ridiculous. Having the game on a Monday is ridiculous. They are almost two different teams after another month of practice.

The most annoying part of all this for me is, like you said, I spend a whole month watching shitty bowl games and then have 2-3 bowl games on in the same day. THEN the National Championship is on a Monday when I can't stay up and watch the whole thing or I am a zombie at work.

rich said...

The thing is that the bowl system could be incredibly entertaining. TCU-Wisconsin is a game I'm actually interested in watching and likely will despite not actually caring about either school. The two problems are as both you and BGF have mentioned are that for every "good" game there's two awful games and the fact that I have to wait a month and wade through those awful matchups to get to the game I want to watch.

Tonight's game was WVU - NC State. I'm sorry, but if that's the best you can do, don't bother.

The thing I love about the bowls is that it provides a relatively safe place for teams that otherwise wouldn't play each other to do so. The really good bowl games are essentially awesome out of conference matchups that don't happen because schools are terrified of losing that one game and getting banished to the Las Vegas Bowl and losing out on the money that comes with the BCS bowls.

The problem that the BCS created and that the playoffs wouldn't necessarily solve is that teams are more afraid of the financial ramifications of losing than they are of playing the best teams. It sucks, but outside of a few rivalry games (OSU-USC for instance), the only place fans get to see these great inter-conference matchups is in the bowl games.

This of course leads to Dylan's point: why can't the games be set up in such a way that good matchups aren't wasted? Why can't we watch LSU's defense go against Nebraska's defense? Or Oklahoma State's offense? Who wants to see a terrible Washington team get steamrolled by Nebraska (again) or watch LSU beat the tar out of A&M?

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, what irritates the shit out of me is Wisconsin-TCU is a game I want to watch but it is stuck on a day when there are a ton of other games on. Why do we focus on FIU-Toledo but the Rose Bowl has to share a day with other games. If you are going to draw it out, do it to where it is better to watch and separates the exciting games out.

I love watching teams that wouldn't play each other go against each other. I would love to watch LSU-Nebraska. I would love to watch a game like Boise State-Oklahoma...again. I want to watch Alabama-Wisconsin or something like that.

Don't even get me started on Nebraska-Washington. That's the biggest load of shit, but it is how the bowl system works out. Nebraska was playing for the right to go to a BCS game and now they play a 6-6 school that backed into the playoffs because their main "rival" somehow sucks worse than them.

Matthew Cleary said...

I almost miss the old conference tie in bowls and then let the voters decide. Poor Penn State. But I digress. The minor bowls are just an excuse to gamble. FIU has no following or backing here in Miami. Neither do the Canes for that matter. Forcing them to travel to Detroit is a waste of money. And at least the historic names sounded cool. How can you take pride in a Little Caesar Bowl or Chick-Fil-A Bowl win as much as a Motor City Bowl or Peach Bowl win.

Dylan said...

BGF,

The awful Bowl games leading up to the BCS Bowl games are definitely the worst. That's why I wanted to change up the schedule and fly through them as quickly as possible. And the National Championship always feels like a blip on the screen on a Monday. Instead of a Saturday Night where it competes with no television show or other Bowl Game, the geniuses in College Football decided to give it as much competition as possible.

Rich,

I hadn't thought about the safety net that Bowl games provide. It would be great to see more competitive, non-conference games, but I don't see it happening for a while. Unless someone steps up to the plate and takes Boise State's open challenge to any team willing to play a home and home with them.

Matthew,

If FIU has no backing in Miami, imagine how we in New York feel. Not having a great college team in the area forces fans to latch on wherever they can. I'm a Wisconsin fan because my brother went there, so I'm obviously excited for Wisconsin vs. TCU. But besides that, as you said, I don't care about teams traveling to Detroit to play a meaningless game.

rich said...

Honestly, how do you get your team excited to play in the Hyundai Sun Bowl?

"Hey guys, we get a week's vacation to El Paso!"

How about the BBCA Compass Bowl in Birmingham?

I get the whole "it's one last chance for the seniors to play." I do, I really understand that, but lets not kid ourselves how many of the Nebraska seniors give a shit about playing hard in the
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl against a 6-6 team they already beat? I'm going with none of them. They'll enjoy the week's stay in San Diego, mail it in and still win by 20.

It's simply amazing to me that anyone associated with college football can look at these games and think the system works. There's an opportunity for some really good games, so why aren't they happening?

I guarantee you that the players would rather play a great team in a solid bowl than play a cupcake. At this point in the year (until the +1 happens), whatever happens in these games has no bearing on anything, so why not schedule the games that no one has the balls to schedule in the regular season?

Bengoodfella said...

For me personally, I just think the bowl games are anti-climatic. There is such a long wait between games and there isn't really anything at stake in the games. Not that it matters too much, but other than pride, if a team wins then they don't get to advance anywhere. Either way the season is over. Sure, teams can use the bowl to propel themselves into 2011 and players going to the NFL can show off their ability in front of NFL scouts.

I just can't stand a system where I have to look at the bowl matchup and think "are they going to be pumped up to be there or will they mail it in?" The question of whether a legitimate team that played in their conference championship is going to care to play in a bowl game says enough about the bowl system to me.

Also, I think Washington will can beat Nebraska. They really don't want to be there and you can tell just reading the quotes.