Have you ever wondered how we got to the point- where there is at least one college football game on television every single day for two and a half weeks from mid December to early January? Why and how are we living in times when college football bowl games are so abundant that now even multiple cities (New Orleans, Miami, Phoenix, San Diego) have both a real bowl game after Christmas, and also a junior varsity bowl game before Christmas?
Well, if you know where you’re coming from with bowl games, it’s very easy to understand how we got here and where we’re going in the future.
I first heard the true origin story of college football bowl games during a casual conversation with a very close friend many years ago. That friend is Chief of Staff to a Chicago Alderman, so he knows a thing or two about how the proverbial sausage is made. Before assuming that position, he worked as a traveling convention and visitor’s bureau analyst and consultant, focusing on venue evaluation.
About a year after our conversation, I received an official press release from the Sugar Bowl about a product they were promoting, and I found official confirmation of my friend’s story buried in a disclaimer at the bottom of the mass email.
Basically, the convention and visitors bureau in a given city got together with the local chamber of commerce and conceived an excuse to sell hotel rooms during a notoriously slow period of the year for the tourist economy.
During the holidays, lots of people do indeed travel, but usually only to see family members. Hence they stay in private homes with their families, and not in hotels.
Hey, those hotel rooms (and the corresponding airfares, restaurant dollars, shopping etc. etc.) doesn’t all sell itself you know!
(If I was ever fortunate enough to be asked to guest on Comedy Central’s “Drunk History,” this would be the story I’m born to tell)
Here’s an excerpt from that Sugar Bowl Committee email, the “smoking gun” if you will. This paragraph was buried at the bottom of the release but it came straight from an official Sugar Bowl spokesperson:
The New Orleans Mid-Winter Sports Association was founded in 1934 by a group of civic-minded businessman and professionals interested in holding sports events for the purpose of selling hotel rooms and restaurants to make money off tourists in New Orleans during what had traditionally been a slow period for tourism.
They’re now known as the Sugar Bowl Committee.
In the past, we’ve mistakenly ascribed romantic notions of “amateurism,” “warmth,” “the holidays,” “pure competition,” “vacation,” and “sportsmanship” to the bowls, and every year that idealism dies a little more as the system of bowl games, already very diluted, expands further and the names, already ridiculous, become even goofier somehow.
However, we shouldn’t cling to that mythology any longer as the purpose of bowl games has always been capitalistic, materialistic and nothing else.
The Beef O’Brady’s Bowl is no different from the very first Rose Bowl, regarding the overall point of this exercise.
In the selection process, bowl committees prioritize the teams that, given the current conditions, could potentially produce the highest sales of hotel rooms, tickets, merchandise, restaurant outings etc.
So we shouldn’t be surprised that the names of so many bowl games are so awful today. Then again, this is also nothing new. Look at some of the names of bowl games of yesteryear (see above)
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”