Bowled over

When I started this column on July 23, my editor warned me that it may be wise to limit myself to a bi-monthly column: Coming up with a (hopefully) compelling, (hopefully) interesting topic every week could be taxing and downright difficult.

Well, last week’s truncated holiday deadline schedule caused yours truly to freeze up, ultimately unable to conjure up a column topic before the axe dropped.

For the first time since I started writing in this space, I came up empty. The streak was snapped at 18. Call me the reverse Philadelphia 76ers.

Thankfully, a weekend spent watching college football provided me an easy enough topic for this week’s column, which, admittedly, is pretty low-hanging fruit. But hey: I had a week off and I’m rusty — and low-hanging fruit can still taste good, right?

And what, you ask, is this particular flavor of low-hanging fruit? Oranges and peaches, primarily.

That’s right: it’s bowl season!

Now, I know: making fun of the absurd and laughable litany of bowl names is not particularly fresh — it’s rotten fruit, to belabor an already bedraggled metaphor. But it does remain fun.

So, to get this portion of the exercise out of the way early, I present to you my favorite bowl names for the 2015-2016 bowl season, in no particular order.

(I’ve also added one fake one; see if you can spot it!):

  • The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
  • The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
  • The Camping World Independence Bowl
  • The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
  • The Meshbesher & Spence Porridge Bowl
  • The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
  • The Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl

(Any guesses? If you guessed The Meshbesher & Spence Porridge Bowl, then congrats! You’ve spotted the phony.)

These bowl names, as always, border on parody — and I even omitted every season’s best sub-category: food-related bowls.

What better time than bowl season for food advertisers to remind you to up your caloric intake as you sink into your sofa in a cloud of Dorito dust?

This year’s bowl cornucopia is sponsored by many of our country’s finest dining establishments and suppliers, including Famous Idaho Potatoes, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, Zaxby’s, Foster Farms, Outback Steakhouse and Buffalo Wild Wings.

That list truly captures the American people’s wide-ranging culinary tastes: the people who supply our fries, fast-food chicken spot, fast-food fried chicken spot, fast-food chicken wing spot, the people who supply the chicken, the bloomin’ onion place and a chicken wing joint with a beer list.

The bowls runneth over

These comically capitalistic bowl names are nothing new, of course; what is new this year is that there have become so many bowls — and so few decent teams — that the NCAA is having to think up new, creative ways to fill all the slots.

Last week, the NCAA Football Oversight Committee met to discuss its conundrum: there aren’t enough .500 teams to fill the record 40 bowls infesting our televisions this holiday season.

The .500 rule seems logical — a firewall preventing sub-par teams from sneaking into the postseason.

But the rule is a vestige of a very different era, when every website or online university didn’t have its own bowl — an era when visiting websites required an AOL CD-ROM and the closest thing to an online education was visiting the library in “Myst.”

In 1995, there were only 18 bowl games; in 2015, because of the NCAA’s deregulation of the system, there are 40 with no limit to that the number.

This year, 62 percent of FBS teams will go to the postseason. What an honor.

The oversight committee’s task was to determine how to handle the slew of 5-7 teams — including the Minnesota Golden Gophers — that are clearly not good enough to deserve postseason football but may just get to play in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl anyway.

Revenge of the nerds

Their solution? To determine the two-to-five “bowl-worthy” 5-7 teams by their Academic Progress Rates.

I love this so, so much.

The NCAA’s message, from what I can tell: if you’d like to play in the postseason, be the best possible football team — don’t worry about class, you’ve got practice; don’t head to the library, get your butt in the weight room.

But if your team isn’t awesome at football, you better hit those books!

But not too hard, mind you: they’re not allowing an 0-12 team with a sparkling 4.0 GPA into this highly exclusive bowl-bound club.

Nope, you need to both be incredibly mediocre at football AND pretty smart!

Now, this is not feasible for the majority of college football players, those not blessed with both freakish physical abilities and a sharp mind.

I see only one logical solution: Bring on the nerds!

I’m imagining coaches filling out their final scholarship spots with National Honor Society members and salutatorians — or better yet, sending their assistant coaches to the library to cajole young scholars into walking on to their football team.

It’s a balancing act, you see. For every line-busting, man mountain of a defensive lineman, you’ll need a computer-programming Mensa member.

Perhaps the mid-level teams like the Gophers could employ a buddy system: if you’re a stud football player whose grades aren’t up to snuff, you must convince one straight-A student to join the football team. For every recreation and tourism major, grab a physics major.

If jocks and nerds can simply overcome their differences and stand side by side, anything is possible. Even mediocrity.


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