Skip to Content
College Football

Bowling For Dollars

9:42 AM EST on December 15, 2023

This picture taken on November 18, 2016 shows a worker checking parts of a toilet bowl on the production line in a factory of Taiwan's largest toilet maker HCG in Taoyuan. According to the United Nations, there are 2.4 billion people living without a toilet in the world. (Photo by SAM YEH / AFP) (Photo by SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)
Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

Bowl Season is upon us at last, which means essentially nothing unless you live in the Southeast or work for ESPN. But given that the college football apocalypse is in rehearsals, let us first remember in the fast-changing world of blazer-wearing moneygrubbery, that Jimmy Kimmel is out on his ass, replaced as the new post-ironic face of comedy, Rob Gronkowski. Whether his XXXL neck can get you interested in UCLA-Boise State is another matter, but as the L.A. Bowl, the former Kimmel vehicle which is merely "brought to you by Gronk" rather than being named the Gronk Bowl.

And in the time we have left between now and the 12-team playoff next year that will further elevate the Big Six bowl games—Goodyear, Vrbo, Capital One, Chick-Fil-A, Presented By Prudential and Allstate—let us remember, in the remaining time it has before it sells out to one of the pro sports and becomes a full-time infomercial for all things Washington Wizards, that ESPN is airing 40 of the 43 bowl games and owns and operates 17 of them outright.  Assuming every bowl game will last four hours, ESPN is committing you to 160 hours of football you mostly don't want between teams you didn't ask for sponsored by companies you have never heard of. We have 43 bowls total, one of them the national championship game because ESPN needs the programming, and while this is not news, it is always good to remember because you are not going to watch the R+L Carriers, Isleta, or Radiance Technologies Bowls as part of the Saturday Eyeball Sear. By comparison, New Year's Day now only has three.

By the way, before we go too much further here, we are going to refer to the games only by their corporate sponsors because the original and slightly more charming names are now in batteries-not-included type at the bottom of the screen. Hence the Big Six as named above, and at the other end of the food chain are the Breakfast Seven—Avocados From Mexico, Famous Toastery, Scooter's Coffee, Pop Tarts, Famous Idaho Potato, and Tony The Tiger. It's just more fun this way, because none of the games are meant to be memorable. They're an accomplishment that says, "We didn't lose more than half our games," and even then there's 5-7 Minnesota playing Bowling Green in the Detroit Lions–backed Quick Lane Bowl, sponsored by Ford Motor Company's auto shop.

Besides, the real news from bowl season is actually TransferMania, in which your quarterback is about to become someone else's quarterback, and the only real controversy from the undercard is when Iowa had to protest the Cheez-It bowl committee's decision to relegate the school's band to the pregame show, probably because by halftime of any Iowa game this year the idea of celebrating anything Hawkeye-related seemed cruel. The baked snack cracker cartel later rescinded its decision, perhaps on the theory that anything to take your mind off the 0-0 halftime score would be more relief than burden.

We mention all of this not because you might be an indiscriminate football junkie but because this moonscape is going to change. As fewer schools are invited in the coming years to the big kids' games, the less likely it is that the other bowls will create much curiosity. If ESPN truly is sold off, either in part or totally, to one of the pro leagues, the chances that it will continue to run college football might well dissipate, and if ESPN is out, well, let's put it this way. Toledo-Wyoming isn't going to make the CW feel good about its long-term investment in college football.

This may all be whistling past an imaginary graveyard because college football is being treated like America's second sport, but nothing about the sporting landscape is really guaranteed any more. We as a society are always one election away from annihilation, and the galactic pixies are not likely to let us go double-or-nothing with the planet. Not even the Lockheed Martin, Military, or ServoPro First Responders games will save us.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter