COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL GAMES : Do a Rain Dance on Their Parade


So, there I am, watching this football tournament’s parade on TV. And there goes the marching band from Diamond Bar High, looking good. And here comes the trophy-winning Free Willy whale float, spouting water. And from her TV booth, Mariska Hargitay tells me that bags of Tostitos are now being tossed to the crowd, while my old pal Pat O’Brien plugs Tuesday’s upcoming Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, calling it: “The Super Bowl of college football.”

And all I can think is:

The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl???

THIS is the parade I’m watching? THIS is the “college Super Bowl” that I must cover? What’s up with that? Why is the national championship a fight between Florida and Nebraska in some bowl game top-billed by a guacamole-dip chip? Is there a Tournament of Tostitos? Does some lucky young woman get to be Tostito Queen? Will her boyfriend give her a corn-chip corsage? Do they strew Tostito petals in her path?

I don’t get it. When/why/how did the Fiesta Bowl get this huge? Whose idea was it not to play on New Year’s Day, when everybody is sitting at home in front of the TV, sipping a frosty cold Alka-Seltzer Lite? How did the Fiesta Bowl--the great-great-grandchild of them all--get to be superior to the the Rose Bowl, the Sugar, the Cotton, the Orange? Who died and made them bowl king?


Pardon my Tempe tantrum.

I’m simply mixed up. (Well, simple, anyway.)

Ordinarily, I would never watch any parade other than the Rose Parade through Pasadena, not even the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day one in New York, even if you told me that one of the floats would include a 50-foot inflatable Courteney Cox balloon. But because this Fiesta thing had somehow become the Super Bowl of college football, I felt compelled to view this grand procession through the streets of the Valley of the Sun, some of which, in yet another indication of Arizona’s progress, were more than two lanes wide!

Well, it was a fine parade indeed, featuring everything you would ever want in a parade, except Bob Eubanks.

And next comes the game.

I don’t know who will have the last word, whether it will be Tommie Frazier and the Cornhuskers, Danny Wuerffel and the Gators or some meddlesome referee, which could be redundant. What I do know is that people have been referring to the Fiesta Bowl as the greatest bowl in the land, la-de-da.

When I wasn’t looking, some college football coalition came up with a way to put together the No. 1 and No. 2 teams from the polls, if humanly possible, on the same field so they could slug it out. I suppose this is better than Richard M. Nixon popping up to proclaim Texas as national champion, which was one of Dick’s dirty tricks that Oliver Stone forgot. This way, I guess either Nebraska or Florida gets to go home to the cornfields or swamps, really happy.

Lucky them.

But suppose Northwestern were 11-0, rather than 10-1. Would this Fiesta Bowl game still be the so-called college Super Bowl? Picture the poor Wildcat players and fans having to go home after a thrilling victory over USC, wearing WE WON THE ROSE BOWL AND ALL WE GOT WERE THESE LOUSY T-SHIRTS while justifiably protesting that they could have knocked the husks off those Nebraskans, given the chance.

No playoff, no payoff.

Or, suppose USC went undefeated. What, no national championship? Nebraska goes 11-0, Florida goes 12-0, but they would get to vie in the Run for the Tostitos, while the poor Trojans had to stay home with an obligation to play the champion of the Big Ten Plus One? This is so unfair. Everyone should get the same chance to play on New Year’s Day Plus One.


Personally, I think the Rose Bowl should teach this Fiesta Bowl a lesson. Let’s reschedule next year’s game for Jan. 3.

Bowl games have always been big, although Lyndon B. Johnson, one of our few Presidents who wasn’t into football, once was quoted as saying: “To see some of our best-educated boys spending the afternoon knocking each other down, while thousands cheer them on, hardly gives a picture of a peace-loving nation.” Funny kind of Texan, that LBJ.

My own childhood New Year’s Days were spent in front of a 19-inch, black-and-white Zenith, observing games like the Sugar, Cotton and Orange, none of which had even remotely the excitement of the Rose, which was always on NBC and where it always seemed to be something like 99 degrees with a breeze, while I was sitting somewhere catching pneumonia and sniffing Vapo-Rub.

Even today, I can still see Sandy Stephens quarterbacking the Golden Gophers of Minnesota, or picture Pat Richter pulling down a pass for the Badgers of Wisconsin, or recall Jim Grabowski bulling forward for the Fighting Illini of Illinois. Seems to me the West Coast schools also might have had some OK players. (Sorry. Midwestern boy, you know.)

As for this Fiesta Bowl business, well, the first time I remember the Fiesta being anything more than your interchangeable Gator, Bluebonnet, Liberty, Peach, Tidy, whatever bowl, it was when Miami and Penn State met for that particular year’s Game of the Century, which was even bigger then than this year’s Game of the Century.

That was a good one.

That was the one where Jerome Brown, the late, great lineman from Miami, led a walkout of a pregame dinner with players from both sides with his immortal declaration: “Did the Japanese sit down to dinner with Pearl Harbor before they bombed ‘em?” You would think that Jerome could have at least tried the prime rib, before leaving.


I don’t know if Nebraska’s and Florida’s players ate dinner together, or even snacked. I only know that I wish the Rose Bowl could be played today, with the winner flying to Phoenix the next morning to kick the Fiesta Bowl winner’s butt.