As a grumpy geezer who remembers the good old days of only four college football bowl games, I find myself agreeing with THIS LAMENT:
Now that the college football bowl season has kicked off — four games down, a mere 31 to go — we should all pause, put down our Bud Lights and reflect on what this annual ritual reveals about our nation’s soul.
Let’s start by considering the dozens of brand names being spray-painted onto fields and beamed onto television screens, including BBVA Compass, GoDaddy.com, Gildan, AdvoCare V100, R+L Carriers, TaxSlayer.com, Vizio and Belk. I have no idea what any of those things are, or what they do, or why I should want to pay money for them. I’m at least slightly familiar with a few of this year’s bowl sponsors, including Allstate, Tostitos, AT&T, Little Caesars, AutoZone, Bell Helicopter, Kraft, Sheraton and Chick-fil-A. I’m making an undereducated guess that Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and Buffalo Wild Wings have something to do with pub grub, and I’m fairly sure that Capital One and Discover provide the kind of cutting-edge financial services guaranteed to make my wallet thinner. The only sponsors that spell it out in plain English are the San Diego County Credit Union, Meineke Car Care and Franklin American Mortgage.
Many fans of college football, those quaint dinosaurs known as purists, bemoan this tsunami of commercialism. They pine for the good old days when there were only a handful of bowl games, and they fed off long-standing rivalries between powerhouse teams, and they were named for actual physical things that had some regional association, things like roses, cotton, sugar, oranges and the bluebonnet — Texas’ state flower, not the margarine. Nowadays, these dinosaurs complain, the selling of sponsorship rights to corporations for obscene sums has turned the bowl season into a tossed salad of generic, mysterious and ever-changing ingredients. To top it off, universities that send their teams to the less prestigious bowls frequently lose money or barely break even.
Corporations are now willing to shell out up to $5 million a year to have their name attached to a college football bowl game because they want the brand to become so common and recognizable that it enters the language as the thing itself. The dream is to become … generic.
The Kleenex of weed whacking. The Velcro of pub grub. The Tupperware of telecommunications. The AstroTurf of auto parts. The Muzak of the mortgage racket.
A noble dream, indeed, but there’s one hitch. As I survey the names of this year’s bowl games, I don’t see any poetry. Notre Dame and Alabama will square off Jan. 7 in the Discover Bowl Championship Series National Championship. That’s not generic. It’s just plain bland.