Picture the pageantry of this year's inaugural John Hancock Bowl: The floats festooned with blank life insurance forms, the crowning of Miss Beneficiary, the halftime card stunts spelling out, "P-R-E-M-I-U-M." The Hancock people were enthusiastic about taking over the Sun Bowl when they learned there is no overtime or "sudden death" (a touchy term in the insurance biz).
Hard to believe, then, that Texas A&M; Coach R.C. Slocum sounded less than thrilled about qualifying for the Hancock Bowl by losing to Cotton Bowl-bound Arkansas. "We will accept the Sun Bowl bid," he said, "but it's a big disappointment not to win the (conference) championship."
Obviously, Slocum doesn't know about the Sun Bowl's glorious past. Who can forget the year that Nebraska was losing a late-season game and noseguard Danny Noonan inspired his teammates with the cry: "Do you guys want to go to the Sun Bowl or a better bowl?" Terrified, Nebraska won and avoided the Sun Bowl.
Almost as exciting as the Hancock is Anaheim's Boredom Bowl, which will answer the question on the lips of every football fan: How would a fourth-place finisher in the Southeastern Conference fare against a team that finished in a three-way tie for second in the Pac-10?
THE BOTTOM TEN BOWL RANKINGS
Dud: Teams 1. Hancock: Pitt, 7-3-1, vs. Texas A$M, 8-3 2. Boredom: Washington, 7-4, vs. Florida, 7-4 3. Peach Pit: Georgia, 6-5, vs. Syracuse, 7-4 4. Independence: Oregon, 7-4, vs. Tulsa, 6-5 5. Copper: N.C. St., 7-4, vs. Arizona, 7-4 6. Liberty: Old, Old Miss, 7-4, vs. Pentagon (Air), 8-3 7. Blue-Gray: North, 0-0, vs. East*, 0-0, 8. Coca-Cola: Syracuse def. Louisville, 24-13, Tokyo 9. Ancient Ruins**: Troy St., 4-7 vs. Carthage, 1-8 10. Bluebonnet***: Idle
* South is on academic probation.
** Traditional Bottom Ten joke.
*** The Bluebonnet, once the Grandmammy of Bowl Games, has joined the roll of such defunct postseason games as the Cherry, Garden State, Salad, Camellia and Gotham bowls.
BOWL SUSPENSE: In the last Cotton Bowl, Arkansas wore Mobil patches, but UCLA refused. And in the Fiesta Bowl, West Virginia wore Sunkist patches, but Notre Dame refused. Which teams will rebel against becoming walking billboards for the corporate sponsors this time?
Poor Mike Ditka. As comical as they are, his Dancing Bears seem only one fiery quarterback (perhaps a Jim McMahon-type) and one wide receiver (perhaps a Willie Gault-type) away from qualifying for the playoffs.
Less promising are the prospects for the St. Louis/Phoenix/Where Next? Cardinals. Sunday, Phoenix fans were appealing to Philadelphia Coach Buddy Ryan to deal with Cardinal owner Billy Bidwill. "Buddy, Put a Bounty on Bidwill," read one of the friendlier signs, referring to Ryan's alleged hobby of putting contracts out on opponents.
Ryan wasn't there--like most people, he can't afford a ticket to a Phoenix game. Speaking of signs, Dallas reserve quarterback Babe Laufenberg shocked TV viewers when he gave starting quarterback Troy Aikman a series of hand signals from the sidelines that culminated with Laufenberg placing his right hand in the crook of his left arm in the traditional "Italian salute." Let's hope that such questionable behavior doesn't result in another Jimmy Johnson-coached team being placed on probation.
WE STINK CONFERENCE
Team, Record Last Loss Next Loss 1. Chicago 6-7 16-27, Minnesota Detroit
Team Was Is Next Loss 1. N.J. Giants 8-1 9-4 Denver 2. Buffalo 6-2 8-5 New Orleans 3. Atlanta 2-4 3-10 Minnesota 4. Dallas 0-0 1-12 Themselves
Player, Record Last Week Next Week 1. M. Wilson (1-0) Def. Indy, 22-16 Miami 2. T. Eason (1-2) Idle Idle 3. D. Flutie (1-2) Idle Idle 4. S. Grogan (2-4) Idle Idle 5. B. Laufenberg (0-0) Idle Idle 6. S. Jurgensen (0-0) Idle Idle 7. G. Blanda (0-0) Idle Idle
* Present or future New England quarterbacks.
QUOTEBOOK I: NBC broadcaster Ahmad Rashad, on how Cleveland management is trying to get its fans in the Dawg Pound portion of the stadium to behave better: "They've sent these people to obedience training."
QUOTEBOOK II: New Orleans Coach Jim Mora, on whether he would bench slumping QB Bobby Hebert: "We're thinking about it. We're thinking about a possible . . . We're thinking about it. Put it that way. When I say we're thinking about it, let me retract that statement. It's something we have to talk about tomorrow. That's really the way I'd like to put it." (That's easy for you to say, Jim.).