As read this, you may be feeling bowled over. It’s January, after all. There were 40 college bowl games this winter, packed into just two weeks. That’s 80 teams. Two teams from the same conference played each other in a bowl game. A number of teams barely had to travel to get to their bowl. Let that sink in as you digest your holiday leftovers and shake off the cobwebs of the New Year’s champagne.

Chances are you never heard of the teams on the field. Chances are at least one team didn’t even have a winning re- cord in the regular season, but there was an over-caffeinated announcer selling the bowl game like a used-car salesman with a surplus of Ford Pintos.

The reasons are plenty. One, there are sufficient morons in America looking for any excuse to sit around a TV, with beer cans and stale pretzels at hand, to watch the Bangor Mites take on the Juneau Whizzers in the Wally World Bowl. Two, any city with a football stadium and earnest civic boosters would love to be known as Home of the Wally World Bowl. Three, there are scores of fifth-tier businesses with interns staffing the marketing department who want sponsor- ing a college bowl game on their resume. Finally, there are too many cable outlets with programming needs. After all, the Mites vs. the Whizzers is welcome relief from “Brother Bob’s Salvation Hour” and “Low-Cost Flood Insurance from Phoenix.”

Bowl games used to have great names, and I don’t mean just the big four – the Rose, Cotton, Sugar and Orange. Even the second- ary bowls had great names, like Gator. The former Gator Bowl is now the TaxSlayer Bowl. I’ll grant that few fans went out and adopt- ed an orphaned alligator after Pat Sullivan and Auburn defeated Archie Manning and Ole Miss in the 1971 Gator Bowl (a classic duel). But is anybody really going to turn to a business with “Slayer” as part of its name just because it overpaid for naming rights? 

But why pick on TaxSlayer when bowl games now carry such quirky corporate names as Battlefrog, Popeye’s, Royal Purple and GoDaddy? Motel 6 and Quick Lane sound like they should be one bowl, not two. 

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What I’ve just described is known in Business 101 as overexposure and market saturation. Saturation is usually followed by a market correction. Except, in this case, there’s a wild card: The other elements might ordinarily fade from the picture, but “sufficient morons looking for any excuse to sit around a TV with beer cans and stale pretzels at hand” will be with us always. So, I predict within five years there will be 50 bowl games. And Bangor vs. Juneau might look rather good. Unless an authority with common sense, like the NCAA, steps in.

Oops! Just used NCAA and common sense in the same sentence. My bad. The NCAA wants nothing to do with the matter, leaving it to the college football conferences and municipalities to sort out. So, it’s up to the colleges and to television – with their separate agendas but common self-interest (money) – to regulate bowl games. But give them credit: They’ve agreed on a task force to look into the number of bowl games or whether losing teams should be invited to one.

Here’s where the irony comes in. The man heading the task force is named Bob Bowlsby.

You can’t make this stuff up.

BIZ BITS

Speaking of college football, some key coaches weren’t with their old teams or their new teams for their bowl games, as the coaching carousel continues to prove college athletics are about money, not scholarship. Good (but not championship) coaches get fired. Top assistants flee for what look like more secure positions.
In more academic news, the U.S. Department of Education named Georgia Highlands College one of 45 two-year public colleges in America with the best ratio of tuition costs to graduates’ earnings. GHC’s nursing degree program has also been listed as the second most affordable in the nation.

The online publication Newsmax placed Atlanta at No. 21 on a list of Top 50 destinations for Christmas in America, citing the lighting of the Great Tree at Lenox Square; ice skating at Centennial Park; the Garden Lights, Holiday Nights at the Botanical Garden; and riding the Pink Pig at Macy’s, among others. Been there, done that.

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My personal memory of Christmas in Atlanta was when my children were little and I bundled them up for their first Christ- mas parade on Peachtree Street. We got there early. I staked out a choice spot on the street, in front of a bank. The temps were below freezing, and I was worried that my children would grow up hating me for the misery, rather than appreciating me for the excitement. Then, unexpectedly, the bank (I wish I could remember which one) quietly opened its doors and invited us in for shelter from the cold – and hot chocolate! We got back out on the street in time to see Santa in his sleigh.

Looking back on past Christmases, and thinking also of birthdays and other cele- brations, I realized I should be grateful for how thoughtful friends have been over the years with gift-giving. I have never received a nose-shaped shower gel dispenser (there is such a thing). Except for the occasional boxer shorts festooned with Santa Claus or jack-o-lanterns or Cupids, I usually receive interesting books, handmade crafts, or pea- nut brittle… stuff that works for me.

I hope I have been equally thoughtful (or will be going into this New Year) when choosing gifts for my friends.

J. Bryant Steele has won awards for business reporting, featurewriting and opinion columns, and is based in Rome.
*The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.