Hey, so after a long layoff, we finally get to see some college football again tomorrow! Utah vs. Navy in the San Diego Country Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl! Whoo!
This gem of a game is definitely worth watching, if only to hear the announcers attempt to say the entire name in one breath (Navy’s triple-option is also fun to watch, especially if you think the forward pass is symbolic of all that is wrong with modern society). Anyway, this game, currently the record-holder for the longest bowl name, is also a contender for the title of "most ridiculous corporate-sponsored bowl name", though I think both the Meineke Car Care Bowl and the Papajohns.com Bowl are worse.
Now, while we all love our new corporate-sponsored bowl name overlords (who needs a Tangerine Bowl when you can have a Champs Sports Bowl!), I sometimes long for the days of my youth (or perhaps my parents’ youth), when bowls had simpler, fruit-inspired names. Everyone knows about the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, but few remember some of the other great bowl names and games that, for whatever reason, just didn’t stand the test of time.
Come, follow me on a trip down memory lane (a.k.a. Wikipedia). Here are some of my favorites:
Someone apparently thought that Fresno could become a tourist destination, because not only did the Raisin Bowl (great name, isn’t it?) last for 4 years (1946-1949), but the California Bowl (much lamer, still in Fresno, sometimes marketed as the California Raisin Bowl) lasted for 11 before calling it quits after 1991. Almost all of the games featured either Fresno State or San Jose State, so at least someone came to the games.
Other games in crappy locations (especially during winter) include…
the Cherry Bowl (Pontiac, Michigan - 1984 and 1985)
the Aviation Bowl (scenic Dayton, Ohio on Dec. 9, 1961)
the Garden State Bowl (East Rutherford, New Jersey - 1978-1981; Cal lost the 1979 game 28-17, to Temple, a team now so bad it got kicked out of the Big East)
…and, of course, just what I’m sure Kentucky and Villanova were waiting to hear in December of 1947 - "Hey, congrats on the great year, and welcome to the Great Lakes Bowl in Cleveland, Ohio!!" What a coincidence! That’s where I was hoping to spend my Christmas vacation!
Now, while the Poinsettia Bowl currently holds the record for longest bowl name, few remember that San Diego was also the previous record holder for longest game name, and they didn’t even have a corporate sponsor back then! Back in 1921 and 1922, the country (or at least the greater San Diego area) was treated to the San Diego East-West Christmas Classic Bowl. In the inagural edition, Arizona lost, 38-0, to something called Centre, which, although I don’t know what it is, sure sounds British to me. Now, I don’t know the actual circumstances of the game, but if you lose in football to anything British, the ball damn well better be checkered black and white.
Some of my other favorite bowl names…
the Freedom Bowl (in lovely Anaheim - freedom from what?) 1984-1994
the Mercy Bowl (in Los Angeles - mercy from what?) 1961
the Oil Bowl (in Houston, of course) 1946 and 1947
the Salad Bowl (in Phoenix, Arizona. Honestly, who doesn’t want to win the Salad Bowl?) 1948-1952
…and finally, who couldn’t get excited about playing in the Bacardi Bowl, held in Havana, Cuba!! (sometimes referred to as the Cigar Bowl or the Rhumba Bowl). The first 5 bowls featured an American University versus a Cuban school, while the 1937 game showcased Auburn and Villanova. That game was played in a revolutionary atmosphere, as Fulgencio Batista, the dictator who would be overthrown by Fidel Castro 22 years later, had just assumed power. The game was almost canceled because Batista’s picture was not in the game program. However, a quick trip to the printer saved the Bacardi Bowl.
Yessirree Bob, bowls sure have come a long way since the Pasadena Tournament of Roses decided to host a football game on January 1, 1902. By the way, for those of us Cal fans who revel in Stanford’s misery (that’s pretty much all of us, right?), here’s an account of the first Rose Bowl game, lifted entirely from Wikipedia (who apparently lifted it from Bowl Games: College Football’s Greatest Tradition, by Robert Ours):
Originally titled the "Tournament East-West football game," the Rose Bowl was first played on January 1, 1902, starting the tradition of New Year’s Day bowl games. The inaugural game featured Fielding Yost’s dominating 1901 Michigan team, representing the East, who crushed a previously 3-1-2 team from Stanford University, representing the West, by a score of 49-0 after Stanford quit in the third quarter. Michigan finished the season 11-0-0 and was considered the national champion. Yost had been Stanford’s coach the previous year. The game was so lopsided that for the next 15 years, the Tournament of Roses officials ran chariot races, ostrich races, and other various events instead of football.
Way to almost kill the Rose Bowl, Stanford. Quitters!