Watching the Oregon vs Oregon State game tonight flashed me back to the simpler days when bowl games were few, prestigious, and didn’t need the name of a company selling package delivery services, pizza, weed eaters, or car care to be viable. Oregon won, 37-33 in an exciting game replete with five lead changes.
The Oregon students were waving roses at the end, and that’s the way it used to be when teams knew which bowl they were playing for. The Pac-8 (which it was until upstarts Arizona and Arizona State joined) would send its champ to the Rose Bowl to meet the Big Ten Champ — more often than not, the winner of the Michigan vs Ohio State game. Roses were passed around at those pivotal late season games because if the respective teams took care of business, they were sure to get a bid for “the grandaddy of them all.”
Back then, the winner of the Big Eight would play in the Orange Bowl. The SEC winner would play in the Sugar Bowl. The (now defunct) Southwest Conference winner would play in the Cotton Bowl. Those teams knew where they were going and exactly what they were playing for.
Furthermore, we didn’t have to remember which corporate sponsor’s bowl it was played in which other corporate sponsor’s stadium. The Orange Bowl was played in the Orange Bowl. The Sugar Bowl was played in the Sugar Bowl. The Cotton Bowl was played in the Cotton Bowl and the Rose Bowl was played in the Rose Bowl. (The latter, fortunately for the sake of history, still is.)
Now, even the parades associated with the bowls have corporate sponsors. How exciting.
Hell, watching football on TV, it has come to having corporate sponsors for first downs. (“That first down was brought to you by Bush’s Beans…”) One of my compadres, Jackstand, speculated that soon we will have sponsors for the left hash mark on the 47 yard line.
For the sake of pumping up even more TV revenue, we now have to endure a BCS selection show, which will air this coming Sunday night on ESPN. Used to be we didn’t need such an abomination. Everybody knew what they were playing for and where they were going. Selection has grown complicated. When the standard tie-ins and rationale fail to provide enough projected revenue, the rules are bent via complex provisions for who gets to pick what from which bunch of teams in what order. The BCS sucks. It amounts to a theatrical booking agency, which attempts to justify its choices and placements with contrived formulae. The elephant in the room is that nobody gives a damn about anything but the money.
By BCS rules, a particular conference cannot send more than two teams to BCS bowls. Ohio State is locked into the Rose Bowl. If Penn State is picked over Iowa for the either the Tostitos or FedEx bowl, a travesty will have been committed. Iowa beat Penn State. Iowa is ranked higher than Penn State. Penn State fans naturally want to see their team go to the best possible bowl. Of course, the administration wants the significantly higher payout of a BCS bowl. It is, after all, all about the money, no matter what euphemisms we hang on it. If Penn State is picked because its fans “travel well” or whatever the hell code word we use for “spend lots of money”, it ain’t right. Iowa should be picked because of what they have accomplished on the field, not based on the size of their alumni fund.
But I digress. The BCS has that effect on me. I continue to be annoyed with the entire process and the thinly veiled pecuniary orientation of the whole damn thing. However, the Ducks are the men of the hour, and I need to give them their Rose Bowl sendoff.
Congratulations to the Oregon Ducks! The last time you guys went to the Rose Bowl, it was 15 years ago and your opponents were the Penn State Nittany Lions. Unfortunately, you faced one of the most prolific offenses in NCAA history and gave a credible effort that fell significantly short against the #2 team in the land. (Only because Nebraska beat Miami the night before, but I won’t get into that — much.) This Turkey enjoyed the privilege of attending that game. This time around, I’m thinking you quackers can win this thing. The tables are turned. The Buckeyes aren’t all that good this year, having lost to a pretty awful Purdue squad and to USC, who you Ducks decimated on Halloween. Party hearty in Pasadena and enjoy the experience — you’ve earned your roses, now go for it all. The Turkey’s Crystal Balls predict a big Rose Bowl win.