Remember when we had real college bowl games?

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Thank goodness for ETV, CMT, CNN and some other non-sports networks.

I finally had my fill of semi-pro football the other night and turned to CMT to watch Dukes of Hazard reruns. There are two things that turn me off about semi-pro football these days. One is the audacity of calling college football amateur football and the other thing is how all the bowl games now have corporate names.

Actually, I ought to look at that more carefully. I wonder if the corporations and the NCAA are now signaling us that the only remaining amateur football is high school football.

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Let me take a little side path here. It was truly refreshing to learn that President Gerald Ford, a star at the University of Michigan, turned down two professional teams to pursue still more education. Of course, this was back before World War II when sports truly was an avenue those athletically gifted could take to receive a college education instead of the NFL’s minor leagues.

I now fear for the amateur status of even high school sports. That amateur status may not last much longer, given the success of the Friday Night Lights television program. Add to that the scandals that break out every once in a while about high schools actually going out and recruiting players by helping families move into their school districts. All that makes me wonder how much longer high school football is going to remain an amateur sport.

I have been irritated for a number of years at corporations purchasing the right to name stadiums after themselves. It was bad enough back when the stadiums they were renaming were those where clearly professional sports were being played. To me, though, that destroyed fan identification and loyalty.

Remember the Giants in Candlestick Park? I forget what they call it now. Frankly, I don’t want to remember what they call it now.

This season we are met on the semi-pro side with a game called the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. Remember when that was the Peach Bowl? Peaches are no longer associated with that bowl in any fashion, even though it was the bowl game originally established by Georgia and the City of Atlanta to pay tribute to the state’s signature crop, peaches.

Just the name of it made me ill and I turned to something else. I didn’t watch football at all that Saturday night. I never again will visit a Chick-Fil-A restaurant, either.

Then there is this business by the NCAA of trying to turn the bowl system into some sort of college championship system. Monday, Ohio State University will meet the University of Florida in Glendale, Ariz., where the Fiesta Bowl was played the previous Monday.

We are to accept, of course, that Ohio State and Florida are the two top semi-pro football teams in the country and deserve to be playing for the “national championship” of college football.

I no longer watch much college football because of all the idiocy that now surrounds it. If either LSU or Notre Dame aren’t playing, I’m not all that interested. Fortunately, I will get to watch the two teams face each other tonight.

I think the next travesty that will take place on the sports scene is when the teams themselves take on the names of corporations, including college teams.

Since Chick-Fil-A bought the Peach Bowl, I suspect it won’t be too long until the Atlanta Falcons become the Atlanta Chick-Fil-As. In other words, one of the birds from which my grandmother used to protect her chickens will themselves become cooked chickens.

Since college football seems to be all the rage for these corporations these days, maybe the Georgia Bulldogs will become the Georgia Chick-fil-As. My grandmother didn’t want dogs in the chicken yard either.

Alabama has a couple auto plants there. Maybe the Alabama Crimson Tide will become the Alabama Mercedes. At least that’s better than being named after chickens, especially cooked ones.

How about the Ole Miss Nissans? Think you could root for that? Maybe Nissan would be a little smarter and name the team after one of their models. How about the Ole Miss Titans?

I could go on in this vein for a while, but why bother?

The real victims in all of this, of course, are the true sports fan. Good luck at getting a good ticket to one of these bowl games if you are following a particular team that gets an invitation to play.

One reason all the bowl games are being named after these corporations is so that they can control the premium tickets and use them to further promote themselves and reward their friends, such as both national and state officials they own, err … are trying to influence.

Then again the corporations have pretty much frozen the average fan out of the good seats for many years by buying up blocks of tickets.

I think I will stick with the NFL, for now anyway. At least it doesn’t masquerade itself as being an amateur sport.