A report by CBS’ Brett McMurphy on a fledgling movement among college football’s power brokers to restrict postseason eligibility to teams with winning records has touched off flights of fancy over which bowl games are most shrilly begging to be offed. Our pals at SB Nation have charted out the seven games ripest to be snuffed out in a world where 7-5 is the absolute floor for winter ball. And we say to you, titans of our industry: Stay your scything hands, and let the corrupt decadence of the postseason fester and flourish for what little time its current form has left.
George Mallory would watch the New Mexico Bowl
From the McMurphy report: “Fewer bowls would actually benefit the overall bowl system, a non-BCS bowl official said. ‘It would make the existing bowls more valuable and drive up the sponsorships and television ratings for the survivors,’ the official said.” We find the truth of this difficult to ascertain. So because the Mountain Dew Icy Shardblast Bowl on December 19 is now a thing of the past, we are, as consumers, expected to be more excited for the DO YOU GUYS KNOW HOW TO POST VIDEOS TO FACEBOOK Bowl (presented by Facebook) on the 20th?
Fewer bowl-eligible football teams means fewer bowls, which means less football to be had in the waning weeks of the year, and if the BBVA Compass Bowl stands for anything (and it does stand for exactly one thing), it’s that ESPN is in the business of putting football where there was previously no football to be had. At its most elemental level, this is an instinct to be applauded. The decision-makers are putting it on because they know we’ll watch it, and we watch it because it is there. As symbiotic relationships go, this one’s pretty tidy. (The Independence Bowl, in this metaphor, stands in for being buried frozen solid in snow on the side of a mountain for three quarters of a century.)
For what we get in return, it’s a steal
Of ESPN’s seven company-owned bowl games, five rank at the very bottom of either 2011 attendance figures or 2011 TV ratings, as charted by SBN. In the unlikely case those games are allowed to go dark, think of what else the teams, the fans and we as a society would be missing out on:
• Pop-culture education: The inexplicably punctuated Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl drew an announced crowd of just over 20,000 spectators, lower than any postseason contest of the 2011-2012 swing. But without it, would you know that such a cocktail as the Beef ‘O’ Rita exists, or that “Conference USA football players cannot dance” is enough of a reason to engage in beachy fisticuffs?
• Enduring pathos: The BBVA Compass Bowl‘s TV rankings were fourth-lowest of all bowl games, but in continuing to operate, it stands as a monument to the first and only postseason college football contest ever named after a pizza chain’s website, a game which once ran out of pizza in the stadium.
• American Americanism: It’s not a member of the ESPN family of postgame properties, but we can’t let this opportunity pass without imparting this tidbit from the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, which is tied for the third-lowest payout among postseason games: Tricia Turley Brandenburg, a senior associate athletic director at Ohio University, told SI.com the team was served 12 different kinds of potato dishes during its time in Boise. This fêting by the friendly neighborhood potato lobby is just one example of cultural mores that ought to be carefully preserved as conferences decentralize and the game homogenizes beyond recall.
Bowls are living on borrowed time
This whole slouching morass of an institution is edging warily toward a playoff system anyway. A playoffs is coming, and when it gets here there’ll be plenty that’s stupid about it, too. We can holler about that then. But for now, let them eat steak fries.