So, how do you like your bowl game? Rare, medium, or over-cooked? I almost said “unnecessary,” while trying to think if there were ever as many unnecessary bowl games as the crop we have coming up this wintry season. It started up right after noon in Albuquerque last Saturday and winds down right about midnight in Mobile 22 days later. Thirty-four games in between, and the rarest of these is the Fight Hunger Bowl, appropriately named because the coaches of both teams have been fired, and where is their next meal to come from?
UCLA fired Rick Neuhuisel, but graciously allowed him to stay on long enough to get butchered by Oregon in the Pac-10 championship game. And that came about because the real champion, Southern Cal, was serving out a sentence. Ron Zook wasn’t nearly that lucky at Illinois. His team won its first six games, then lost the last six in a row, and was already out of the door. So between them, these “bowl” teams have lost 13 games, but press guides down the road will proudly refer to the two as “bowl” teams.
I covered my first bowl games in Jacksonville in 1947, when the Gator Bowl was growing some hair on its chest. Oklahoma played N.C. State—no contest—in a high school “stadium” of solid cement, with a few added bleachers. Not long since the turn of the century I began taking my bowl games by television, and even though we have two bowls coming out of the state this year, I shall continue my abstinence, much as I always enjoyed going to the Sun Bowl.
El Paso gives you a real taste of the cowboy life, with Texas on one side of the Rio Grande and Mexico on the other. I suppose the Rio Grande still separates them, but sightseeing in Juarez doesn’t appeal to me as it once did. What you don’t realize is that the Sun Bowl is the fourth oldest of the bowls. It sort of slipped into life after the Rose, the Orange and the Cotton while not a lot of people were paying attention. And, I’ll have to confess to you that some of the first Sun Bowls were played between tidy little colleges, and in some instances, between high schools. But, it was still the Sun, and a bowl through the eyes of the El Pasoans.
Now, let’s see, I think there are 34 bowl games now, from the Gildan New Mexico Bowl to the All-State BCS Bowl, which is an Alabama-LSU rematch in New Orleans. There are bowl games with names that sound like filling stations and butcher shops. They’re even playing one in Yankee Stadium. Once, I covered one in the old Polo Grounds, between Utah State and Baylor. A few over 9,000 frozen fans showed up. It called itself the Gotham Bowl, but Gotham wasn’t very interested.
Oh, well, of the Unnecessary Bowls out there now, and there will probably be even more next year and the next, as long as such sponsors as Meineke Car Care, Autozone, Little Caesar’s, Belk and Beef O’Brady keep picking up the tab. I’ll continue to take mine in the living room…medium-rare if given the choice.