Sunday, July 08, 2012

A Rose by Any Other Name

If you spend a lot of time cruising the Internet and absorbing all
information therein as absolute gospel, than you believe the

(1) The world will end in December of 2012 when the polar poles
reverse and we all are launched into outer space. We know this
because someone found a calendar that says so made by the Mayans some
1300 years ago.

(2) Big city sewer systems are populated by giant alligators who were
flushed down when they were young. Fortunately, most of them dwell
beneath the streets of New York, just another reason while they call
it Fun City.

(3) Famous children’s television star Mr. Rodgers was in fact a Navy
seal/sniper who wore cardigan sweaters to cover up the tattoos that
commemorated his numerous kills.

(4) The Rose Bowl has been rendered irrelevant by the new college
football playoff system and will lose its luster as a premiere game.

If you believe (1), you are dismissed from this conversation. After
all, it’s irrelevant.

If you buy (2) and (3), your imagination exceeds your good sense.

Which brings us to (4).

There are more than a few bloggers, pundits and self-styled experts
who have decided that the new college football championship
arrangement will reduce the Rose Bowl to a shadow of its former self.

Under the new plan, the championship will be decided between the
winners of two semi-final games in an arrangement that will last 12
years. Call it the football version of the Final Four. Six bowls,
including the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange, will be used to rotate
annually the two national semifinal games. The national title game
will be awarded to the highest bidder.

That means the Rose Bowl will be in line to host a semi-final game
once every four years. In between, the Rose Bowl will continue as
usual featuring a matchup between the Pac 12 and Big 10.

That was assured when Rose Bowl and conference officials signed an
extension with ESPN to continue televising the game through 2028.
Same date (Jan. 1), same time (2 p.m.), same station. If there’s a
semi-final game scheduled at the Rose Bowl, it will be played on Jan.
1, 2 p.m., ESPN.

To summarize: there will be football every New Year’s Day at Rose
Bowl for several decades down the road. Unless, of course, the Mayans
are correct.

So what’s the gripe? It goes something like this: All attention now
will be focused on the Final Four football games. If in fact the Rose
Bowl hosts the Pac 12 and Big 10 champions, those teams will not have
been good enough to make the Big Dance and interest will wane. And if
a Pac 12 or Big 10 team does get into the playoffs, the Rose Bowl
will feature a game between conference also-rans.

Anything is possible when predicting the future. But a lot of this
speculation doesn’t fly. For one thing, it dismisses out of hand the
stature and significance of a game that’s been played since 1902. The
Rose Bowl is college football.

There’s no question that the football Final Four will be the subject
of non-stop hype and hoopla. But never equate hoopla with fact.
Last year’s BCS championship game between LSU and Alabama was a
snoozefest won by Bama. The crashing noise you heard in the
background were TV ratings plummeting.

Meanwhile, Oregon and Wisconsin were engaged in classic shootout at a
sold-out Rose Bowl with the Ducks winning 45-38 in the second most
watched college game in cable TV history.

It featured the No. 4 and No. 10 teams in the country which clearly
didn’t diminish its viewership.

In addition, the level of fan loyalty in college football is off the
charts. Most fans would watch and root for their team if it was
playing in the Baghdad Bowl. Now, put your favorite teams in the Rose
Bowl in prime time on New Year’s Day. Do you seriously think nobody
would watch? ESPN obviously thinks they will at least for the next 16

The college football championship game will undoubtedly be played in
some sterile NFL stadium that offers all the warmth and tradition of
a hospital waiting room. The Rose Bowl game is a pageant, a parade, a
party. It’s also a cash cow, one with an estimated economic impact of
more than $50 million.

It has survived two world wars and a depression. Put who you will in
Pasadena, and they will come.

In order to buy into the Rose Bowl doomsday scenario, one needs to
assume that Rose Bowl officials along with the leaders of the Pac-12
and Big-10 conferences are so inept that, confronted with a new
reality, they fumbled the ball.

Instead, they are sitting pretty.

Ask Darryl Dunn, general manager of the Rose Bowl about it, and he’ll
tell you the Tournament of Roses officials get a lion’s share of
credit for keeping their game front and center. They weren’t about to
let their golden goose become a side order of hot wings.

There are still a host of details to be worked out in the new
championship scenario. Some of them could alter the arrangement as we
understand it now.

But I’m betting that if you turn on your TV on, say, New Year’s Day
of 2022, you’ll see a hell of a game in Pasadena.

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