Sunday, December 21, 2014

You hereby have permission to watch bowl games

I was looking for an old Copley Newspapers column I had written about Illinois basketball when I stumbled upon a 2004 rip-job I did on the Bowl Championship Series.

Back then, I vowed not to watch one second of any bowl game, including the mythical national championship game between USC and Oklahoma.

"The evening of Jan. 4, I will go to a high school basketball game, take my wife to a movie, play board games with my kids -- anything but watch a sham title game. I have been in this business for 22 years and have been a fan a lot longer than that, and I'm still waiting to hear one good reason why Division I-A football should be the only NCAA sport lacking an equitable way to crown a champion. And it's not just the title game. The entire system is a mess. A joke. A billion-dollar sham."

I concluded my diatribe with this:

"Don't watch bowls. Don't buy products sold by bowl sponsors. Show the sham artists exactly what you think by giving them the attention they deserve: none."

And with that, my Bowl Boycott began.

I'm not sure how many readers joined the boycott. Though a few claimed they would follow my lead, I know it's quite possible that not a single one did. But I was true to my word: For 10 years, I did not watch one minute of one bowl game. And I felt darn good about it.

Fast-forward a decade and here we are ... less than two weeks away from the start of the very first major-college football playoff. On New Year's Day, Oregon will meet Florida State in one semifinal at the Rose Bowl, followed by Alabama vs. Ohio State in the other semifinal at the Sugar Bowl. Eleven nights later, the winners will meet for the national title at the Dallas Cowboys' 100,000-seat Shrine To Wretched Excess.

We heard for more than a decade about how a legitimate playoff would ruin the regular season, undermine conference races and render league championships meaningless. We heard blather about "student-athletes" having to play too many games and about fans not being willing to travel for playoff contests. We heard that a legitimate championship would gut the entire bowl structure.

Not one of those excuses rang true at the time, and not one proved true in the end.

All the introduction of the playoff system did was make the regular season even MORE meaningful and make college football better than ever.

I still won't watch most of the three dozen bowl games that are little more than exhibitions. Really, unless one is a fan of North Carolina State or Central Florida, why would one watch the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl? Why, why, why?

But although I might not watch every minute of all three playoff games, I certainly will watch many minutes of each -- as will millions and millions and millions of others.

I'd have preferred an eight-team playoff, and I'm pretty sure there will be one down the line. Still, this four-team event is a darn good start.

Come Jan. 12, we will have the first-ever real (non-mythical), major-college football champion. Finally!

So from me to the rest of America, all I can say is ...

You're welcome!


Crazy as it seems, the Carolina Panthers, at 6-8-1, can make the playoffs by winning in Atlanta next Sunday. As a big-time Panthers fan, I actually thought for a second about going to the game, but I would have had to postpone my Chicago trip to do so.

Instead, I have put Ben in charge of finding a Chicago bar where we can watch the Panthers-Falcons game -- and, simultaneously, can watch that day's Marquette-Morgan State game (a.k.a "Most Definitely Not The Big One").

As tempting as it might be, meanwhile, I don't have great interest in watching Jimmy Clausen's second start for the mighty Bears against the mighty Vikings. Yeah ... I know ... it takes willpower to avoid that one.


My Scholars Academy Eagles won our last game before Xmas break by a 48-2 score. That's right:48-2! (As my son asked: "Hey, what happened to the shutout?")

The victory sent us into our nearly three-week layoff with a 6-1 record.

One thing I really love about my team is the camaraderie -- the girls genuinely like each other, pull for each other and pick each other up. We have more talent and depth than last year's team while still playing with our trademark aggressiveness and "want-to" attitude. These girls are winners.

The Eagles will be a force to be reckoned with in the second half of the season!


My latest article for the financial Web site -- It's New! It's Nifty! It's The Dividend Growth 50! -- has been incredibly well-received.

As I write this, it has 35,432 page views and 766 comments. Both are by far all-time highs for me.

Five of my last seven articles have been designated as "Editors' Picks," helping bring in a total of 3,273 followers.

Jeesh ... you'd almost think I was a writer or something!

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