Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bowled Over

Time was that there were four post-season football bowl games: the grand daddy of them all was the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, then came the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and finally the Orange Bowl. They matched up the top two, four, six or eight teams in the country in a final showdown for the season.  Each event celebrated a captivating feature of a city or region of the country, like roses in Pasadena.  Bowl games were played on New Year’s Day or plus or minus a few days.  Today they begin a week before Christmas and extend midway into January in order to find enough open television slots for the onslaught of ads. There was a time when bowl games were actually sporting events, not just advertisements for products Little Caeser’s Pizza, Meineke Car Care or Tostitos as they are today.  By last count there are now at least 35 post-season advertisement bowls for advertsing a wide range of products.

There are a few unusual bowl games, like the Humanitarian Bowl sponsored by Roady’s Truck Stops, which I suspect isn’t all that humanitarian, and the Insight Bowl formerly called the Copper Bowl.   But don’t be misled by the “Insight Bowl” title; the latter bowl is sponsored by a computer hardware and software company (Insight Inc.); it’s not in competition with the Aspen Festival for Ideas, heaven forbid too much thinking might be involved.

Talk about grade inflation. Sponsored bowl games make it possible for nearly any college or university athletic program to cash in on the post-season financial bonanza.  Just imagine the possibilities, Yuma Community College versus Kaplan University Davenport campus competing in the SLIME Tire Care’s Pretty Good Bowl played in Gary Indiana’s US Steel Yard south shore stadium in 2012.  Bowl games are a great strategy for soliciting donations from alumni who love to bring their clients to bowl games where they can sit in fancy boxes, cavorting and drinking (which they can write off on their taxes as business expenses).  Mostly bowl games provide a vehicle for commercial enterprises to capture the attention of that all important television demographic, young adult males, for an hour or two between wardrobe-malfunctions and draughts of beer.  Bowl events also benefit the colleges and universities, though athletic donors are seldom interested in supporting the humanities, arts or science programs.  They want bigger and better stadium boxes and more expensive coaches. Needless to say, ESPN benefits a bit as well.

Why limit oneself to post-season football advertising?  Other types of bowl games could be appealing as well, like the Medtronics Heart By-Pass Bowl.  Two teams could compete, like one from Mayo Clinic and the other from Johns Hopkins Medical Center, each conducting cardiac by-pass surgery on a pair of matched 59 year-old male patients requiring a quadruple heart by-pass.  Live images of the patients’ pried-open thoracic cavities with tubes with pumps making weird sounds, and forceps hanging out could be projected on side-by-side 175 by 75 foot video screens in a stadium with the surgeons working at the 50 yard line surrounding by prancing cheerleaders.  Scoring would be pretty straightforward. Failure to adequately monitor hemodynamic stability would be charged a 10-point penalty and accidentally cutting the wrong blood vessel is a personal foul costing 15 points. Excessive blood loss counts as a touch back. Dropping the patient on the floor leads to expulsion of the lead surgeon.  Humus would be substituted for salsa as the preferred chip dip, for obvious reasons.  Wade Fisher, MD from Methodist Hospital in Houston would provide the cut-by-cut commentary and Vaughn A. Starnes, MD, Hastings Distinguished Professor and Chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at University of Southern California would provide the color commentary, reflecting on great heart surgeons of the past,  although hopefully not too colorful

Another innovative possibility would be the Twitter Sonnet Bowl. Writing teams from the top ranked collegiate writing programs, like the University of Iowa’s and Columbia University’s creative writing programs would compete for creation of a sonnet on a specified theme within 90 minutes. The quality of rhyming would be scored, with pedestrian rhymes subtracting points and more innovative rhyming adding points. Extra points are scored for using iambic hexameters, or hendecasyllable or Alexandrine meters. Cribbing from Emerson or Dickinson is definitely not allowed and counts as a personal foul. Opposing teams are allowed to make up to three disparaging remarks about their opposing team’s compositional progress.  Cumbrean Meade is the drink of choice with medium aged cheddar and tart apricot scones as nunchions. Martha Serpas, distinguished poet from the University of Houston would provide the color commentary and Anne Finnerman, writer in Residence at Washington University in St. Louis would deliver the line-by-line analysis, and very likely, stinging critique. 

As you can see, advertising bowls on nearly any topic are possible as long as they can be used to sell something to us gullible fans that are sick and tired of hearing politicians excoriate one another, so put on your thinking caps. 

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