The way I see it, bowl games are a lot like pizza.
Hold on, I’ll explain.
See, I’m of the opinion that there’s no such thing as a truly bad pizza. Oh, there are varying degrees of quality, to be sure. Those Totino’s frozen pizzas you cook at home aren’t as good as a pizza from Little Caesars. But Little Caesars isn’t as good as the pies you can get at Domino’s or Pizza Hut. And none of those chain joints come anywhere close to measuring up to the pizzas at an amazing local spot like The Mill House.
To be sure, not all pizza is created equal. But pizza is good. Everyone likes pizza. (Or at least they should, if they love their mother and America). Having any pizza is better than having no pizza.
In a sense, college football bowl games are the same way. The quality varies, but they should always be welcome.
But not everyone sees it that way. Indeed, this is the time of year when, inevitably, folks on social media and on sports talk radio and elsewhere begin to beat the annual “There are too many bowl games” drum.
Now, I’ll allow for the fact that there are quite a few games. Ok, maybe more than “quite a few.”
Counting the national title game, there will be 40 bowl games this year. Bowl season kicked off Saturday with five matchups — including the illustrious Raycom Media Camellia Bowl from palatial Montgomery, Alabama — and will continue straight through to the championship game on Jan. 7. In all, there are 78 college teams involved in the bowls and the College Football Playoff. The number of light beer commercials in the next few weeks will indeed be staggering.
And, OK, I’ll grant you that, say, the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl — which is a real thing that exists and pits UAB against Northern Illinois on Tuesday — won’t likely be the second coming of that 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and Southern Cal that people are still talking about.
But, come on. This is college football, and, last time I checked, college football is still the king, especially in the South. Remember the spring and summer? Those long, seemingly endless spring and summer months in which you would have done just about anything for a college football game? Those months where you watched old game clips on YouTube and read articles about practice — practice! — and whined on social media about how football couldn’t get here soon enough?
Well, those months are about to roll around again, and soon. Maybe let’s not complain because teams are getting to play an extra game at the end of the season.
Also, as the bowl games have proliferated, they’ve become essential holiday programming, right alongside “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “A Christmas Story.” The games are appointment viewing for fans of the participating schools, but they also can be background noise at holiday parties, sources of triumph (or despair) for degenerate gamblers, or welcome relief for dads laid out on the couch after a long day of last minute Christmas shopping. Nothing helps you unwind after a near fistfight at a shopping mall like grabbing some popcorn and stretching out for the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. (Yes, that’s a real game.)
Of course, many here are anticipating the bowls South Carolina and Clemson are taking part in. The Tigers are set to face Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29 as part of the College Football Playoff, while the Gamecocks will play Virginia in the Belk Bowl that same day. I plan to be in Charlotte for the Belk Bowl, which will mark the 15th time I’ve traveled to see the Gamecocks in a bowl game.
So, sure, there are a lot of bowls. And there are more coming. Myrtle Beach is getting a bowl game in 2020. (If Wings or Eagles aren’t a sponsor for that game, someone’s asleep at the switch). But I will dispute any claims that there are too many of them.
I don’t talk bad about pizza, and I don’t talk bad about bowl games. In fact, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to call in a pizza and go watch a bowl game right now.