I think how the current college bowl system developed is kind of like the “Seinfeld” episode where Jerry and George are pitching their idea for a show about “nothing” to NBC execs. For this sake, let’s say they were ESPN execs.
ESPN execs: “So, what’s the show about?”
George: “I can sum up the show for you in one word — NOTHING!”
ESPN execs: “Nothing?”
George: “Yes — NOTHING!”
ESPN execs: “What does that mean?”
George: “NOTHING HAPPENS! It’s about bowl games where there’s nothing at stake. One team with a 6-6 record plays another 6-6 team, and one team goes 7-6 and the other goes 6-7. NOTHING HAPPENS! It’s meaningless. All these other sports are doing SOMETHING — with their playoffs and tournaments that lead to something — they’re all about meaningful competition. Our show, will be the only sports show on TV about NOTHING!”
ESPN execs: “Nothing? Give us an example.”
George: “The Meineke Car Care Bowl, there’s a show! The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, there’s a show! The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, there’s a show! You see, they’re all shows about NOTHING!”
ESPN execs: “We still don’t understand — the show has to be about something ... at least lead to something ... doesn’t it?”
George: “Alright, what did Air Force and Rice do this year?”
ESPN execs: “Well, they both got their uniforms, practiced and both went 6-6.”
George: “There’s a show!”
ESPN execs: “How is that a show?”
George: “They can play each other in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. One team goes 7-6, the other goes 6-7, one team gets some meaningless trophy. Don’t you see — it’s a show about NOTHING! Every other sport is about doing something in their postseason. We’ll be the one sport with shows about NOTHING! It’s like life — you get up, you eat, you read, you go shopping. NOTHING HAPPENS!”
ESPN execs: “Well, something must happen!”
Jerry interrupts: “Well, maybe something happens along the way during the season. Maybe this leads to something.”
George: “NO, NO! NOTHING HAPPENS! It’s meaningless!”
ESPN execs: “Well, why are we watching it?”
George: “Because IT’S ON TV!”
ESPN execs: “Not yet.”
George: “Look, if you want to keep doing the same old thing — having meaningful postseasons in sports, go ahead, maybe this idea’s not for you. But, I, for one, am not going to sit here and compromise my artistic integrity! THIS IS THE SHOW, AND WE’RE NOT CHANGING IT! (Snaps fingers) Jerry, let’s go!”
And roughly, I think that’s how today’s mostly meaningless 35-bowl system began. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll probably watch some — because it’s on TV. And of course, the stakes are so high.
Matt Brindley is a nighttime editor at the Courier.