The corporate hustle of college bowl games

Are you bowled over yet? With college bowl games, I mean.

Are you bowled over yet? With college bowl games, I mean.

Through January 12, a record 39 football “classics” will have been televised, allowing bleary-eyed, beer-sedated gridiron fanatics to binge on what amounts to a non-stop buffet of plays, replays, and sports clichés. On just the first day of the bowl blitz, there were five games on the telly, from 10 am to midnight. So you could’ve had brunch, lunch, happy hour, dinner, and midnight snacks without ever leaving your La-Z-Boy. Is this a great country, or what?

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Still, football tradition just isn’t what it used to be. Rather than reflecting a sense of place and local pride, the new bowls are money hustles, owned by whatever no-place corporation has a few million tax-deductible ad dollars to buy the game and use it as a gaudy billboard to hype the corporate brand. Thus, we’re blessed with the likes of the GoDaddy, Bitcoin, Quick Lane, Advocare V100, and Taxslayer bowls. Then there’s the Duck Commander Bowl – a made-for-TV event sponsored by a TV show!

Meanwhile, the proliferation of bowls has produced an embarrassing deterioration in the level of team excellence that these contests claim to celebrate. Of the 76 teams awarded bowl slots this season, roughly half came from the deep ranks of football mediocrity – 20 barely had winning records, 11 lost as many games as they won, and one actually had a losing record. It’s hard to hide the silliness of chanting, “We’re the champs,” when your team has six wins and seven losses.

Bowl games these days are redefining the concept of “hustle” in sports. They no longer exist for the game itself, the players, the schools, or the ideal of sportsmanship. Rather, they’re just another piece of our culture that’s been purchased for the enrichment and self-aggrandizement of corporate interests.

“From 39 to 1, a guide to games,” Austin American Statesman, December 19, 2014.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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