2011 Skelly Family Christmas

New Year's without College Football?
New Year's Day will be an all-NFL affair this year. Even those who couldn't really care are saying, So? That’s what happens when New Year's Day falls on a Sunday. (Only twice this past decade.) So why not let the colleges play on New Year’s Day, and move the pros to the next day. It’s not like they’ve never played on Monday.

But the Sunday thing only masks the real trouble with college bowl games. It's been brewing for a while now, and like everything, we won’t bother to address it until it's too far gone to fix. Just like budget deficits, pollution, derivatives or civility between Republicans and Democrats.

Champions of the Bowl Championship Selection process are now collectively staring over the tops of their eyeglasses in consternation. They’re quite proud of their accomplishments of the last decade or so. On their website they refer to their program as one of the most successful events in the history of college football.

“Thanks to the BCS,” they note, “the top two teams have played each other 12 times in 12 years by BCS measurements and nine times in the last 12 according to the AP poll—including the last six years in a row. Additionally, (the BCS) has provided more access to the major bowls for all eleven conferences, more television exposure, and more postseason revenue than ever before.”
Roy Riegels running the wrong way in the 1929 Rose Bowl. The Cal center rumbled 65 yards after picking up a Georgia Tech fumble, only towards the his own goal line rather than Tech's. The college bowl system may be headed in the wrong direction as well.

All that may be true. (Although a majority of people still want to see a playoff system. You can’t please everybody. It seems like the BCS can’t even please a majority.) But it sure has become all about the Benjamins.

Mawkishly sentimental traditionalists are left feeling a little like Hotelier Max Kellerman in Dirty Dancing when he tells (the) Charles 'Honi' Coles right before the big closing number,: “Somehow it all feels like it's slipping away.“ Things really have gotten a little out of control, and all in service to the higher cause of financial gain.

Despite the free market palaver that free-market enthusiasts like to spout, what's good for business isn't necessarily good for you unless your interests happen to align with theirs. This may not be one of those times.

Everybody used to get to see four premier college games on New Year's. The Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Rose Bowl and, if you could stay awake (or go in late the next day) the Orange Bowl. Each with a signature logo emblazoned on the 50-yard line and used for commercial breaks and station breaks along with the wish, generally in white script, for a Happy New Year!

People looked forward to the games almost as much as New Year's Eve. If you could just make it to your couch, you were set for the rest of the day.

In 1930 the Rose Bowl (played annually since 1916) was the only game in town. Any town. By 1940, there were five bowl games: Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange and Sun.

In 1950, there were eight, and games were still played mostly on New Years Day. But then more bowl games began playing games earlier in December, and games started popping up cities not associated with winter vacation destinations. Originally they were tourist attractions, yes.
Third Annual Skelly Family Christmas Video

By 1970 we had 11 games. Fifteen by 1980, Nineteen by 1990. Twenty-five in 2000, and by 2010, 35 games. Like hockey playoffs, a whole second season. Only inverse to hockey, the bowls now mark where many people stop paying attention to college football.

As the number of bowl games has increased, the number of wins a team needs to get invited has decreased. With a twelve game schedule, a team with six wins can get in. This year UCLA is going to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl with a losing record.

Bowls, even the second-tier ones, used to have evocative names like Rose, Peach, Gator, Tangerine, But most have sponsors now who want to see their own names on the marquee. Belk Bowl (Queen City), Champs Sports Bowl (Citrus), Chick-Fil-A Bowl (Peach), Capital One Bowl (Tangerine).

The top-tier bowls, like the Rose and Orange, which have held onto their identity, must now share the marquee with their sponsor.) It's the least you can do for someone ponying up as much as five million dollars for the pleasure of your company. Bowls mean national TV exposure, and that requires up-front money, and up-front money demands consideration. Which in this day and age often means whoring yourself out a little.

TV exposure has changed, too. These days it’s just about all on ESPN (Which is paying in excess of $500 million for the privilege). ABC carries one game. Fox carries one game. They could never fit them all on New Year’s Day anyway, but rest assured ESPN doesn’t want to compete with itself. Nor would the sponsors ever let it. Hence the temporal diaspora. Games are now spread over a 24-day period.

Of the original five, only the Rose Bowl is still played on New Years Day (or the Monday following, as the case may be). The BCS title game (a rematch of Alabama and LSU, proof the system works) won’t be played until Jan 9. (The first super bowl was played on Jan 15 in1967.)
Running back Ed Tunnicliff scores late in the fourth-quarter, and Northwestern wins the 1949 Rose Bowl against Cal. 20-14. The Wildcats' only bowl game victory in 10 tries.

It’s not really that it was better then, or worse now. Well, maybe it is. But the situation reminds one a little of Las Vegas, where many people long for the good old days when the city was run by the mob. Crooked, maybe, but with a little more soul.

It used to be a simpler time. And there was a measure of comfort and clarity in that. Which helped when your head was about to explode from an excess of alcohol and a series of bad decisions made the night before.

All this big business is just another way of making your head hurt on New Year's Day. Now they’re just football games.

Last Year's Index: Dec. 10-2.95   Dec. 15-3.6   Dec. 25-4.0
This year: Dec. 15-3.96   Dec. 20-4.17   Right now: 4.27

Wow, just like Congress. Only the manic depressives are voting. Little representation in the middle moods; where are the moderates? And why are we attracting slightly more 1 per centers than 99 per centers. Does the Christmas Spirit Index unwittingly appeal to an upscale crowd? More important, will more reasonable voters emerge from the shadows and restore balance as the holiday approaches? Or are we headed, gasp, for stalemate? We’ll have to wait and see.

Not like Congress after all; more like the stock market. The bulls in charge, the bears routed, the trend clear. Though always capable of change, as those whose 401ks survived—or didn't—the 2008 market know. Maybe Christmas is less volatile, and hurtful, than Wall St. For now it's mostly 6s, and the others seem to be standing in the shadows, perhaps too depressed to vote. N.b.: the CS index is down slightly off its earlier high (3.98). Hiccup? Or harbinger of a violent reversal? Vote again and find out.

Index voters seem to be saying it was country singer Mickey Gilley who showed the fullest understanding of the true spirit of Christmas. The girls all really do get prettier at closing time. Meaning, simply, the closer we get to the actual day, the better it looks to us. And what do you people have against Elvis Presley anyway? The King only gets 4% of your vote? Doesn't anybody get the Christmas Blues anymore?

Only one vote after Christmas Day. Almost all 6s in the last five days before Christmas. The folks who felt less than estatic about the holiday preferred to keep it to themselves. Or else everybody was really very happy.

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