Cal's plummeting football team is 6-6, they've lost six of its last seven games, and they're going bowling. The Bell Helicopter Armed Services Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas (home of the TCU Horned Frogs!) will be the venue for any fan wishing to spend New Year's Eve Day watching the Golden Bears play for the right to avoid a losing season.
The opposition will be provided by the Air Force (actually just the football battalion of the same).
Last time Cal tackled a military academy post-season; they were finishing up another faded year and got sunk by the Navy in 1996. Ah, tradition.
Another hallowed year-end tradition is to bash the proliferation, scope, and names of the bowls themselves. So cliché that even the icons used to measure which bowls are worth watching have been done to death (ratings of worth measured by the number of remote controls, bowls of corn chips, or little footballs). Then follows the limited though customary plays on words; the Toilet Bowl and the Tidy Bowl. Or guffaws bought by bringing back names from bowls past: the Bacardi Bowl, the Poulan Weedeater Independence Bowl, the Salad Bowl. Next gripe: complaints about the sponsorships, and how dare they desecrate the sacred name of the Peach Bowl with corporate shills like Micron PC, Chick-fil-A, or the San Diego County Credit Union (Poinsettia) Bowl
In the same way that it's become fashionable to bemoan the holidays for, well everything (the loneliest time of the year, the most stressful, the fattest ) why not be hella nostalgic and celebrate the bowls and their seasonal bounty? It's not my money or yours going to host the Roady's Humanitarium Bowl, and if the good folk of Boise want to throw a football party, and I'm home and being lonely or stressed or fat, I may (or may not!) watch the game. Like an advent calendar, practically every day from mid-December has a game to open. With the volume on mute down in the bar, or at the electronics store, or around the hearth with its tangled drama - here is relief, a bowl game, featuring two teams no one around you has ever seen either. And here's the best thing of all, the mistletoe on top of the bouche de Noel, more than two dozen football teams end the year a WINNER.
People who want a playoff are so wrong in so many ways. Isn't life hard enough, aren't victories in this life hard enough to come by? Why would we want fewer?
Compare the bowl season to the end of college basketball. In hoops almost every single team ends its year by LOSING. Unless they have no tournament (hello Ivy League - now, by the way considering adding one), every other team except for the National Champion is a LOSER when they walk off the court or leave it with towels on their head weeping. What kind of people are sports fans who celebrate a system that has a thousand individuals losers to let bloom a dozen winners. And this is the Big Dance? Fuck that. If I can't get the Prom Queen, shouldn't I still be able to get a shot at that girl in Chem Lab?
And that's what Bowl season says to me lots more people leave happy. Hurray, I'll celebrate with the Iowa Hawkeyes or Central Florida Centralians (Floridians?) even though I haven't seen a highlight of their seasons up to now. Last year's Boise State game on New Year's Day was the best game I watched all year and I knew it would be while watching it on January 1. A hook-and-ladder play, a halfback option pass, and a Statue of Liberty play followed by the star halfback proposing to the head cheerleader during the post-game interview - beats hell out of all the 49er and Raider games put together.
So what if my childhood illusion (common among LA kids) that every bowl game had a parade/queen/floats/more than half-filled stadium? So there won't be a Garden State Queen, an Astro Bluebonnet Grand Marshall or a Motor City establishing beach shot. All I know is that the bowls will roll throughout the month and whether I'm there or not, they'll be there for me when the eggnog runs out. It's about abundance and pageantry and presents enough for everyone. That's worth celebrating. Cal in a bowl game after losing everything that wasn't nailed down for two months running, that's Festivus, baby.