Do We Really Need 39 Bowl Games? Of Course Not
December 17, 2018

New Year's Day is just two weeks away. Of course, New Year's Day in the sports world means college football. The Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and before things got mucked up with a four-team national championship playoff, the Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and a bunch of other games on early in the morning because they can't conflict with ESPN''s exclusivity of those contests. Operating on the theory, though, of there's never too much of a good thing, we get 39 games in 18 days, and that doesn't include the national championship.

Bowl season got underway on Saturday, and if to provide football fans a great excuse not to go the mall and get a good chunk of their holiday shopping done (who are we kidding), we got six games to watch. There was really only one where you may have an interest in both teams, but nonetheless, the New Mexico Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, Celebration Bowl, New Orleans Bowl, Camellia Bowl, and Cure Bowl were on full display.

Yes, Virginia, there are 39 bowl games. That means 78 teams. All you have to do to qualify for a bowl game is win half of your regular season games (something neither UCLA nor USC could do this year, but whatever). There was even an article that made the case for two more games. Yes, it seems four teams (Southern Mississippi, Miami of Ohio, Wyoming, and Louisiana-Monroe) were snubbed. The nerve of some people. Southern Miss was 6-5. The other three were 6-6. If there's a Deal Who Cares Bowl in Cheyenne next year, you'll know why.

There was a nice article in the Albuquerque Journal on Friday ahead of the New Mexico Bowl. It underscored the importance of the game to the area, and how six thousand visitors were expected. It pointed out how beautiful the backdrop of the Sandia Mountains are to the stadium, and how the game is a three-hour informercial for the tourism bureau. It also did mention that the game's title sponsor, Gildan, had quietly withdrawn their name from the event. It also said about 25-thousand people were expected to attend, but if you watched Utah State blow out North Texas 52-13, you couldn't help but notice that a lot of people weren't there.

The thing is, though, even if no one goes to the games, they will continue. If you watch the Hawai'i Bowl (usually Christmas Eve Day, but December 22 at 7:30pm PT on ESPN), you'll see just a smattering of fans in floral print shirts. Yes, there was a very nice turnout in Las Vegas for the Fresno State-Arizona State game (Fresno State won 31-20), but even ticket sales were low, it wouldn't matter.

Announcers and other will tell you that the abundance of these 'post-season' games makes for a nice reward for the teams involved. Sure, why shouldn't Baylor and Vanderbilt both be invited to the Texas Bowl (December 27, 6pm PT on ESPN)? Both teams are 6-6. The players get to appear on national TV, probably go tour Mission Control, and battle in some sort of eating competition. All for winning as many games as they lose.

There are four reasons why all of these bowl games exist. E. S. P. N. Of the 39 bowl games, 34 of them are on either ESPN, ESPN2, or ABC (CBS has the Sun Bowl, Fox gets the Redbox Bowl (a real thing and a good matchup between Michigan State and Oregon in Santa Clara), the Holiday Bowl in San Diego was farmed out to FS1 this year, and the mighty CBS Sports Network has two games—Saturday's Cure Bowl and the upcoming Arizona Bowl). It's all about programming.

Think about it. It's the holiday season, and sports wise, there's really not much going on. Sure, they could come up with some pretty good basketball games, but why watch Duke-Kentucky or Gonzaga-Arizona when you can watch South Carolina and Virginia in the Belk Bowl? ESPN gets viewers, the participating schools get hundreds of thousands of dollars just for showing up, sponsors get their name mentioned on TV, and execs get to go to places like Shreveport, Louisiana or Boise, Idaho, and someone may have actually booked a trip to Albuquerque after seeing those beautiful Sandia Mountains behind Dreamstyle Stadium.

You may think the NBA or NHL is bad, but no one rewards mediocrity like major college football (and still UCLA and USC didn't make it!).

Better 'Battle of LA': Back on September 24, we (okay, I) pointed out that the Chargers played the Rams and the NFL didn't care. The Rams won the game, but it was not televised outside of the southern California market, and it almost seemed like the league was going to completely ignore both teams until the new mega-stadium opens in 2020. Both teams are now 11-3.

Zzzzzzz: If you were really amped going into last week's baseball Winter Meetings, boy are you disappointed. Virtually nothing happened, unless, that is, you are jacked about the Padres signing Ian Kinsler or the Angels getting Justin Bour. There were no mega-trades, resulting in MLB reporters and anchors acting silly for four days, and ESPN rumoring Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto to go to just about every major league team.

Parting shot: ESPN's Eduardo Perez (former MLB player and son of Hall-of-Famer Tony Perez) had a great line about the possibility of the Dodgers acquiring slugger Bryce Harper. During a Baseball Tonight show, he jokingly took a shot at manager Dave Roberts and all of his lineup combinations, saying if the Dodgers got Harper, Roberts would “probably platoon him with Kike Hernandez.”

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