Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Lysol toilet bowl game

You probably know that I'm a big sports fan. I grew up watching football with my dad and cut my teeth on the traditions, the rivalries, the pageantry of college football. Some of my fondest memories are of college bowl games that were played during the holiday season. Bowl games presented matchups that were not seen in the regular season. From the weary television console came team histories, funny mascots, famous coaches, bright college colors, and excited pennant-waving crowds. It seemed to me that life came to a halt while the entire world focused on football for a few days.

The Tournament of Roses game, now known as the Rose Bowl, started in 1902. It was a classic East-West battle, and was the only bowl game held outside of the South until 1971. Paired with the beautiful early morning parade, it has been part of every New Year's Day that I can remember.

In 1933, the first Orange Bowl game was played. Its purpose was to draw attention to the unknown city of Miami and help build a tourism
industry. Next came the Sugar Bowl (1935, New Orleans), the Sun Bowl (1936, El Paso), the Cotton Bowl (1937, Dallas), and the Gator Bowl (1946, Jacksonville).

The associations behind these bowl games had altruistic beginnings. Most benefited charities, many which were recently formed to help people in the wake of the Great Depression. Today they still have 501(c)(3) status but their exempt purpose is fuzzier, bringing economic impact to a particular area. Most current bowls continue to donate a large portion of revenue to worthy causes. For example, the Gator Bowl gives 75% of game revenue to support educational pursuits in Jacksonville. Of course they do, and I'm sure the money is put to good use. But if hard truth be told, I'll bet that much of the money given to charity is a payout to preserve their nonprofit status, to keep the IRS at bay.

The late 1950s saw a proliferation of new bowl games hoping to make money from television coverage. The first bowl game to sell corporate naming rights was the US F&G Sugar Bowl in 1988. The move generated an adverse reaction from the public. No matter, it has now become commonplace. I personally loathe each and every corporation that co-opts tradition in the name of profit. Naming rights are even sold for half-time reports. The most memorable was an attempt to reach out to female viewers, the Stayfree Maxi-pad Half-time Report. At least that one made me laugh. I can't say the same for my dad who quickly left to stir the chili.

I suppose I should be more understanding. With competition from the new bandwagon bowl games, which offer team payouts in the millions, the old timers have to play by the same rules. After all, bowls can't make money if the teams don't show up. And the impoverished state-sponsored universities aren't willing to be pawns in someone else's money-maker.

As with so many of our cherished cultural traditions, all has been reduced to greed. Corporate greed, state-supported university greed, individual greed. Players in the past chose universities to which they had personal connection. Now players are recruited from all over the country for their athletic ability alone. Avoiding academic probation is the definition of educational success. Players don't matter, but they don't care. They'll pump up on steroids hoping to be noticed by NFL recruiters. Graduation rates don't matter to either side, unless the numbers drop so low that the NCAA takes notice. Then arrangements with willing professors are made. Anything to advance the team.

Money is the root of all evil. I don't think so. Money can do much good as the original intent of college bowl series illustrates. The Lockheed Martin Holy Bible actually says that the love of money is the root of all evil. The perversion of college bowls is but a small and insignificant example of what's become a global truth.


The names have been changed to expose the guilty:
Rose Bowl presented by Citi
FedEx Orange Bowl
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Brut Sun Bowl
AT & T Cotton Bowl
Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
Capital One Bowl (formerly the Citrus Bowl)






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3 comments:

Swiss Miss said...

It's as though you were plucked straight out of the blue collar, dive bar on every corner town from which I come. I love football...it's in my DNA.

The corporatization of everything sickens me. I've even taken to reading homesteading magazines, I long so much for a more authentic lifestyle.

Marie said...

Why thank you, Swiss Miss! Methinks you and I are kindred spirits. And I know every blue collar, dive bar in Colorado Springs in case you're yearning for a little taste of home!

I haven't come across any homesteading magazines, but I love authors like Wallace Stegner and John Steinbeck, writers of the American West, likely for similar reasons.

What are you doing Superbowl Sunday? I cried alone when Peyton got his ring a couple years back. I doubt if I'll need emotional support this year, but we could eat Frito chili pie and throw back a couple of Silver Bullets!

Swiss Miss said...

It's a date!