My neighbor Babble was shaking his head and muttering to himself.
"Traditions," he muttered. "All disappearing. No respect for tradition any more."
Babble, you sound like the guy in "Fiddler on the Roof," I said. What's the problem?
"So many good old traditions, gone," he moaned. "Like World Series games in the daytime. Milkmen delivering milk to your doorstep. The Catholic Mass said in Latin."
I don't recall you ever having milk delivered to your door.
"I didn't. But the point is I could have if I wanted."
And you're not Catholic.
So what set you off this time?
"The greatest, most hallowed tradition in sports history, disregarded, vanished, thrown aside." He waved a copy of the newspaper sports section at me. "There will be no college football bowl games on New Year's Day."
That's true. None of this year's bowl games are scheduled for January 1.
"What's happened with these bowl games, anyway? You remember how it used to be, years ago. On New Year's Day you had the four big bowl games: Cotton, Rose, Sugar and Orange. Wall-to-wall college football, that's what you're supposed to start the year with. Isn't that in the Constitution somewhere?"
But surely you know the reason for this. This year, January 1 is a Sunday, and Sundays belong exclusively to professional football. It's the last Sunday of the National Football League's regular season. You'll have all the football that day anyone could want. You're a big pro football fan, right?
"Yeah. Which is why I don't want pro football on New Year's Day."
I'm not following you, Babble.
"You know I like to party on New Year's Eve, right?
You sure do. What was all that hollering coming from your house at 2 in the morning last year?
"We were tossing people into the swimming pool."
Huh? You don't own a swimming pool.
"We were all so pie-eyed, nobody noticed. Anyway, when the dawn breaks on the new year, I usually have a whopper of a hangover. I have a headache that goes all the way down to my hips and extends up eight inches above my scalp. My tongue feels like someone used it on their belt sander. I can't even raise my eyelids to half mast until afternoon."
I sympathize, Babble. But what does that have to do with football?
"I'm in no shape to watch a game where I really care who wins. Look, who usually plays in these New Year's Day games? Mostly it's the champs of the Big Ten versus the Pac Ten, or the Bigger Twelve versus the Humongous Northwest, whoever. A bunch of state universities from states I never set foot in. I have no rooting interest. I'd care if it were a game that Virginia Tech or U.Va. were in, but they hardly ever play on January 1."
So you want football games you don't care about?
"That's what I need on New Year's Day. If I somehow make it to the couch early enough, there is the soothing murmur of the Tournament of Roses parade to slowly arouse me to semi-consciousness. Then the football games arrive, and the familiar comforting sounds of broadcasters' voices, referee's whistles, and truck commercials during the time-outs provide a relaxing background as my eyes slowly begin to focus."
I assume you have the sound turned way down low.
"You bet. Once I accidentally hit the volume button on the TV remote in the middle of the Sugar Bowl. The next second, my skull was split by the piercing crash of a penalty flag hitting the ground."
But since they're playing pro football this New Year's Day …
"I don't dare watch. It's the climax of the regular season, deciding whether some teams get to the playoffs or not, and I'll probably be rooting for some team. There's a risk I might get excited and leap up from the couch and cheer, and you know what that will do to me in my condition? My eyeballs will explode."
I guess not all football injuries happen on the field.
"That's why I say stick with tradition. Keep the bowl games on New Year's Day, and let the NFL play some other time."
Babble, aren't you making too much of this tradition thing? I believe they move the bowl games every year. New Year's Day is a Sunday. If memory serves, the last time it was done was January 1, 2006. Have you forgotten that?
"Oh, yeah. That was the year I didn't wake up until January 2."
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