Man requires food, water, shelter, love and, once a year, 13 straight hours in front of an array of radiation-emitting television sets, watching every New Year's Day bowl game. Preferably with a bag of fried pork rinds.
Four minutes late for the first game. Not a good start. Perhaps inviting the valet parking attendant inside for one last Singapore Sling last night was not such a good idea. Still, at my home in Denver, I am well prepared: I've got four TVs and more junk food than Home Alone, and, best of all, I talked the local Sharper Image store into lending me one of their $2,000 vibrating, massaging, stereo-equipped reclining leather chairs for the day.
"Who would actually buy a $2,000 vibrating, massaging, stereo-equipped reclining leather chair, anyway?" I asked the store's assistant manager, Steve.
"Dan Issel, for one," Steve said. "Charles Barkley. Actually, we sell a lot of these. I bet we sell 30 or 35 a year."
January 11, 1993
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O.K., I'm ready. The first game is the Hall of Fame Bowl from Tampa: Tennessee versus Boston College. Unfortunately the game is not even 10 minutes old and already the hype is hurting my ears. ESPN color man Joe Theismann is making the Vols' quarterback sound like the second coming of Johnny U. "Write this name down," Theismann says. "Heath Shuler. Put it in a drawer somewhere and save it. Because I've seen a lot of quarterbacks in my time...." Me, too. And Heath Shuler is very definitely one of them.
In one hour I've watched 40 commercials. I estimate I will watch more than 1,000 before the day is over. Still, I hope I only have to hear once about Dristan Juice Mix-in. Sounds lovely, no? On today's brunch menu, we will be featuring eggs Benedict, salmon croquettes and Dristan Juice Mix-in. Enjoy!
Now is when it gets zooish. The Hall of Fame Bowl is still going on, and the Cotton Bowl starts in five minutes, followed by the start of the Citrus and Blockbuster bowls both within the next half hour. Not that it matters. Of the eight games today, seven have all the history and importance of Moose Lodge meetings. Only tonight's Sugar Bowl between No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Alabama means a thing.
Logic has never been within a par 5 of college football. Schools play great football until the end of November, and then, when their players are at a peak, they take December off. Then they come back, and in one colossal, gluttonous bacchanalia, they play eight games in one blotto day. The system is so stupid and confusing that it is usually left for 138-pound sportswriters to decide who is national champion.
I would rather date Beano Cook than watch any more of the Hall of Fame Bowl. Boston College is getting the last sacrament from Tennessee at this point, 31-7. Luckily there is always ESPN's sideline reporter, Dr. Jerry Punch, an actual doctor, who, when giving the details of a sideline injury, sounds like a correspondent for the New England Journal of Medicine. After describing one player's injury by rattling off befuddling medical terminology, he threw it back to the booth. Said Theismann, "Does that mean there's something wrong with his wrist?"
Just a thought. Can you imagine if Dr. Punch was your actual doctor? Uh, Dr. Punch, maybe die stethoscope would work better if you took off the headset.
Best line of the day: After Penn State's O.J. McDuffie drops an easy pass in the Blockbuster Bowl, CBS's Jim Nantz says, "Maybe it was the glare off of all the empty seats."
It's possible. Joe Robbie Stadium features 27,446 empty seats. Of course, that's what the Blockbuster Bowl gets for signing up Penn State for this game last May. Penn State ended up this season 7-4. Then it gets thrown in against the Genius, Bill Walsh, and Stanford. You know what we say? Good.
If I get one more minute of massage I may turn Swedish.
I think I just slept through the Citrus Bowl. Right now, it's my favorite.
Hannah Storm of NBC is having a bad hair day. Still, she's the best sideline announcer so far. She proved it by asking Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz if his team's 28-3 win over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl was the best revenge against those who said the Irish should never have been invited in the first place. Damn right, Holtz said, in so many words.
Stat of the day: Since 1988 no team currently in the Southwest Conference has scored a touchdown in the Cotton Bowl.
All praises to the Genius. He helped Stanford stomp Penn State 24-3. After the loss, the Nittany Lions immediately accepted a bid to the 1995 Peach Bowl.
Oops! Almost forgot to tune in to the infamous Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. At last year's Fiesta there were protests over Arizona's lack of a holiday for Martin Luther King. This year there were protests over the presence of Colorado coach Bill McCartney, who's a leader of Colorado for Family Values, which helped push through Amendment 2, which, some people say, made it legal to discriminate against gays in Colorado. McCartney didn't back down and never does. So far in his career he has been legally stopped from leading pregame prayers for his team, spoken at an Operation Rescue antiabortion rally two nights before a game against Oklahoma State and been accused of having Bibles printed up with the Colorado football logo. Now he and his school are a target in the national boycott against Colorado, a place some people call the Hate State. On the plus side, they say his halftime speeches are terrific in the original German.
The Fiesta should just close down and start over. The field at Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium is in such horrible condition that it has been reduced to painted sand. Terrific for the University of Iraq, but Syracuse and Colorado look lost on it. To top if off, the game's new sponsor, IBM, insists on calling it the IBM OS/2 Fiesta Bowl. Sounds more like an invoice.
Starting to lose it. Caught myself reading the label on a can of Spam Lite for intellectual stimulation: "Cut in 8 to 12 slices. Arrange in baking dish. Spread with favorite sauce or glaze. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes." Sorry, no can do. I'm a Spam purist. I've seen a lot of big gainers today, but the biggest, undoubtedly, is my waistline.
This kills me. One of the biggest arguments against a national three-week playoff system is that athletes would miss too many final exams. But Colorado came to Arizona 12 days before the Fiesta Bowl. That's enough time to play two games. This year you could have played the championship game on Jan. 7. School, at Colorado at least, starts on Jan. 4 this year. Exactly how many finals are there the first three days of the semester?
Life is good. The Choc-o-Cakes are terrific. I'm starting to get feeling in my legs again, and the teams in both the Fiesta and the Rose are scoring like Sam Malone. In one stretch during the Fiesta, Syracuse scored, then Colorado scored four plays later, and then Syracuse scored again when Kirby Dar Dar took the ensuing kickoff 100 yar yards for a touchdown off a reverse. While that was happening, Ty Wheatley of Michigan broke away for a thrilling 88-yard touchdown run. It was all so exciting, I accidentally dipped my shrimp into the bean dip.
And some countries like soccer.
I have now had tour TVs going in my face for more than six hours. I believe I'm getting a tan.
Syracuse defeats Colorado 26-22. McCartney was 1-5 in bowl games as an assistant with Michigan and is now 1-6 with Colorado. Only a shameful ticky-tack clip call against Notre Dame two seasons ago kept him from 0-7. What, him worry? He's got a 15-year contract.
I'm not sure I can go on. I am so sick of football that when I heard the opening fanfare for the Orange Bowl, I got a facial tic. Six games behind me, two more to go, and every play so far has been meaningless. At 80 plays a game, that's almost 500 plays. All I want is to stand erect again. On the other hand, if I can last another 10 minutes, I think I'll be able to approximate life in a coma.
After almost 10 hours, we finally have a game where something is actually at slake. The Sugar Bowl. There is only one way to celebrate. Honey, break open the Fiddle Faddle.
One thing that has become clear today is that when sportsmanship dies completely, we'll know what killed it: college football (page 68).
At the Fiesta Bowl, Colorado's Leonard Renfro got into a shoving match with a Syracuse player—before the game. When Corey Dixon scored a touchdown in the Orange Bowl for Nebraska off a lucky tipped ball, he bowed deeply and blew kisses to the crowd. His touchdown made the score Florida State 20, Nebraska 6. Just about every other time somebody has scored a touchdown today, it has been as though he just saved the Lindbergh baby. The basic pose is this: both arms extended full out, like Neil Diamond on his third encore, the better to absorb the adulation. There is no acknowledging the guy who sprung you with the block or the quarterback who threw you the football. Even when teammates are trying to hug you, you do not change the pose. There is no time for that. There is only time to exult in the magnificence that in me.
Hobie Baker, where have you gone?
O.K., I'll describe it, you name it. We start out with giant scary robots who segue into the Flintstone family, who segue into the ballooned-up Fifth Dimension singing Up, Up and Away, who segue into Lee Greenwood singing I'm Proud to Be an American in front of a giant, laser-produced bricklayer.
Right! The Orange Bowl halftime show!
For the sixth consecutive time, Nebraska is about to get husked in a bowl game. Florida State is leading 27-7. Still, I have been heartened by something I learned during the broadcast. Turns have calcium. I like that.
The only thing better than watching Miami lose is watching it lose bad. The high-decibel Hurricanes turned out to be mere blowhards. They are now behind 27-6. Therefore I'd like to take this moment to single out receiver Lamar Thomas, the mouthiest Miamian of them all. First, he fumbled after making a big play. Then, sprinting down the sideline for a sure-thing TD, he got sucked in from behind by Alabama safety George Teague, who snatched the ball from Thomas and took off the other way. Though an Alabama penalty negated the turnover, Thomas was last seen hiding his face in a towel.
I am now ready to announce my New Year's Day all-star team. At quarterback, Tennessee's Shuler (O.K., so write it down). At tailback, Michigan's Wheatley. At the other tailback, Alabama's Derrick Lassie, who ran on Miami like a new red towel in a washload of white T-shirts. After one touchdown Lassie did his Fred Sanford "I'm comin', Elizabeth" fake heart attack, and on another he did a handspring. Absolutely charming. At announcer, ABC's Keith Jackson. Still the best. He refers to offensive linemen as the Big Uglies, as in "The Big Uglies on the right side really opened up a hole that time!" Then he said that scoring on the Miami defense was like "climbin' a cactus." Who else, on your deathbed, would you want to say the word "A-la-BAMA!" God bless this man's larynx.
Alabama 34, Miami 13. It's all over, 13½ hours and four flagons of Maalox later. And the good thing is, adults like me are learning to live with scoliosis.
Two games were great—the Fiesta and the Rose. The Citrus was decent. The rest were about as appetizing as a cold glass of Dristan Juice Mix-in. New Year's Day quarterbacks completed only 49% of their passes. Even the Heisman Trophy winner, Miami's Gino Torretta, looked clunky: 24 of 56, three interceptions and no touchdowns. Come to think of it, the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner. Desmond Howard of Michigan, caught only one pass in last year's Rose Bowl. You try taking a month off and then playing your best game of the season.
Can't you just taste a playoff? People are getting spoiled. They've had a sampling of a few No. 1 versus No. 2 games now. How are you going to get them to come out for the big Outback Steak House Gator Bowl? So why wait? Give us an eight-team playoff next year! Seven bowls stay on as game sites! Three weeks of terrific ratings! Dr. Punch as master of ceremonies!
At long last, the final postgame analysis on ESPN is over and the TV goes off. Boy, I'm glad we don't have to go through that again, aren't you, honey?