January 02, 2008

The greatest television show of all time -- Seinfeld, of course -- taught us a valuable lesson: Subtlety is often overlooked in every-day life. It's the little things that prove most memorable -- from ordering soup at a deli to getting an extra mile out of that last gallon of gas.

This college season forever will be enshrined as one of enormous twists and turns. And with the bigger, more publicized games attracting most of the attention, it's easy to forget about the little guys -- even if they make it all worthwhile.

A decade after Seinfeld went off the air, I was delighted to see the quirks and personalities of the show's main characters living on in some of this year's "lesser" bowl games:


Despite being the main character on a television show named after him, Jerry was arguably the most underrated and overlooked character on the program. In fact, it's easy to forget just how gigantic a role he played despite all his adventures -- you're more likely to remember the trysts of George Costanza and Cosmo Kramer.

Likewise, the Motor City Bowl was the best game this postseason that nobody watched or even knew about. Of course, that might've had something to do with the less-than-glamorous circumstances surrounding it. Think about it -- Purdue vs. Central Michigan ... in Detroit ... on a Wednesday. Sounds like a bad Big East game.

But the game was a much better contest than anyone will remember with other, more enticing bowls on the docket. Actually, with over 900 yards of total offense and 99 points, it might've been the most exciting game of the entire bowl season, ending on a last-second field goal that gave the Boilermakers a 51-48 victory.


If you're building a matrix of character traits for the cast of Seinfeld, you could spike out a number of qualities for Elaine. Sophisticated. Smart. Bold. At times, snarky. But more than anything else, you can't help but peg Elaine as incredibly superficial. Enter the Holiday Bowl.

Arizona State against Texas seemed to be a solid match-up ... on paper. However, as the game progressed, it became increasingly obvious the Sun Devils were, in fact, a fraud and never as legit as that No. 2 rating they once achieved in BCS standings. An 18-point loss to the Longhorns pretty much proved that.


Kramer will always be remembered for his lunacy, but at the same time, he seemed to have a keen understanding of traditional behavior, offering stunningly accurate advice for situations seemingly beyond his mental capacity.

The Gator Bowl displayed this same duality, with Texas Tech's oopty-oop offense and Virginia's conventional style of play. And likewise, this game will be remembered for its own brand of craziness in the form of the Red Raiders' improbable fourth-quarter comeback and eventual 31-28 win.


You can say what you want about Costanza being a liar and a cheat and a selfish goof; but even more so, he was always frustrated -- with work, people and life in general. And though we laughed at his shortcomings, you couldn't help but feel annoyed right along with him.

For me, this was the New Mexico Bowl to a tee. Honestly, I can't remember a more frustrating game all season -- watching Nevada's offense was like sitting through Kenny Bania's Ovaltine shtick. The Wolfpack was inevitably shut out 23-0 by a more organized New Mexico squad.

NCAA rules prohibit bowl organizers from spending more than $500 on gifts for each player involved. Yet somehow, every player in the Capital One Bowl received a $400 Best Buy gift card, Timely Watch Co. watch, Panama Jack sunglasses, Panama Jack T-shirt, cap and an assorted bag of other goodies. And guys in the Fiesta Bowl got a 20-inch LCD HDTV, a Tourneau watch, Oakley sunglasses, and a hat. Where are these organizers shopping, OffTheBackOfATruck.com?

The Sports Business Journal compiled a list of bowl gifts early last month that listed nearly all the items given to players in specific games. Take a look -- you'll feel like you're watching Blue Chips, with people getting tractors and new homes. Among the lavish gifts are Nintendo Wiis, Xbox 360s, Slingboxes, iPods, digital cameras and camcorders and full-fledged sound systems. No wonder people are reluctant to banish the bowl system in favor of a playoff.

There are, however, a few dud gifts that are likely to appear on eBay. Among other relatively meek freebies given to participants in the Hawaii Bowl were a Hawaiian shirt, beach chair, beach towel, and a calendar. Worst gifts of all? How about a free pair of cowboy boots and a belt buckle courtesy of the Texas Bowl.

So when a yell leader from Texas A&M joked at a pep rally that the venerable Joe Paterno was "on his deathbed" and in need of a "casket," was anyone else reminded of the infamous scene in Black Sheep when Chris Farley stormed the stage and screamed "Kill Whitey!"? Yikes. Freudian slips and microphones mix like John Rocker and New York City.

The bottom line is that strange things happen when you put people in public speaking-type situations, so let's keep things in context. Without question, the young man's comments were in poor taste, but he did apologize and Paterno didn't seem to take umbrage. Texas A&M looked particularly unspectacular on Saturday, so that helped, too. Plus, there have been plenty of other far-more-noticeable debacles in front of audiences. A few of my favorites:

Carl Lewis singing the national anthem at 1993 NBA game; Mike Gundy going postal; Ted Kennedy introducing sluggers "Mike McGwire" and "Sammy Sooser"; President G.W. Bush explaining "tribal sovereignty"; Rafael Palmeiro emphatically denying steroid use before Congress; most Bud Selig press conferences; Bryant Gumbel calling games on the NFL Network; guy from QVC falling off a ladder on live television; "Boom goes the dynamite."

West Virginia fans, now might be a good time to draw the blinds, eat a few saltines, shave the stubble, and stop e-mailing me about how Rich Rodriguez scorned your Mountaineers. I realize that my saying this will fire up droves of faithful Mountaineers, but it needs to be said.

Look, I understand the contempt here. Whenever successful coaches leave, it's like a high-profile divorce. But this one just feels like it's getting ridiculous -- it almost seems destined to end up on a new episode of Judge Judy. I know Rodriguez was one of your own. I know what he meant to your program. I know the way he left was sudden and abrupt and everything in between. However, I still can't fault Rodriguez for taking a higher-profile job. I just can't bring myself to do it. Not in this sports era where coaches are only as loyal as their options. Sorry.

But Nick Saban is still a snake.

1. Hotter Tony Romo date? Jessica Simpson / Sophia Bush

2. Better Fiesta Bowl pick?Oklahoma / West Virginia

3. More usable '80s slang term? "Dweeb" / "Homey"

4. Better Orange Bowl team? Kansas / Virginia Tech

5. Buggier Microsoft product? Xbox 360 / Windows Vista

6. Smarter International Bowl pick?Rutgers / Ball State

7. Preferred New Year's Eve host? Ryan Seacrest / Anyone not named Ryan Seacrest

8. More probable GMAC Bowl winner? Bowling Green / Tulsa

9. More overused term? "Humble pie" / "Mock draft"

10. Likelier 2009 BCS Champion?USC / Ohio State

In the waning moments of 2007, I found myself asking one critical question: Why is Mylie Cyrus on my television? Seriously, why? Cyrus, known as "Hannah Montana" to armies of teenie boppers around the globe, performed a few acts on ABC's New Year's Eve coverage Monday night and continues to be hailed as the next big thing in entertainment. Yet, I seem to have missed the memo that (a) requires everyone to think her music is phenomenal and (b) makes people forget that she's only 15.

Miss Cyrus may be more talented than most other teenagers, but I think it's time people reeled themselves back. Entertaining? Sure. Worth paying hundreds of dollars to see in concert? Probably not. Worth conjuring up a fake story about someone dying in Iraq as the basis for an essay contest, going on national television to DEFEND your decision, and submarining your reputation in the process? Umm ... no.

This just in: Alabama fans did not take kindly to my SABAN Scale two weeks ago. File this one under the Saw It Coming category...

Dear Ty,

Thank you. Your column on 12/19/07 may be perhaps the finest piece of journalism I have ever had the pleasure of allowing my humble eyes to read. It should be the first article to ever be awarded the Pulitzer, Oscar and Medal of Honor at the same time! Your deep grasp of what the world is all about, is well, simply divine! I laughed, I cried, but I hung on every word ... ASTOUNDING!

Please, take charge when the inevitable crunch from the action figure and video game makers throw tons of money at you to license your likeness. We down in Alabama want you depicted as accurately as possible. My one and only question/wonder, is how in the heck, do your skull bones keep your brain contained? AMAZING!

Take care and keep up your wonderful original thoughts for us, timid and humble sheep starved for original humor.

Donna K.

You know, I expected angry e-mails from SEC country. But if I've learned anything over the course of the season, it's that female SEC fans seem most likely to be overly passionate, irrational, and willing to rip my heart out and feed it to their children. I think I'm in love. As a Georgia fan advised me earlier this season, "get a restraining order while you're still alive."

Ty Hildenbrandt writes Campus Quick Slants every Wednesday. E-mail him at tyhildenbrandt@gmail.com with your comments, questions and random observations.

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