Coach's Corner

Coach on the couch: A long, dreary series of bowl games is a lousy way to start the new year, isn't it?

It's been too long since I've warned innocent sports fans what a horrible prognosticator I am. I guess it's too late to be very helpful for any ex-readers who went out to Vegas for the holidays brimming with cash to bet on Maryland, who only missed covering a 16-point spread by two touchdowns and a field goal (I actually said the Terps would win), and Nebraska (I said they'd win, too), whose ghastly implosion in their last two games reminded me of a long ago movie, Gremlins, when the bad, cute little gremlins put the good cute little gremlins in the microwave just to watch them explode. It was an ugly mess, different from the destruction in Miami only in that imploding life forms in a microwave at least offers a suspense/excitement/horror quotient. Watching the Orange Bowl was nothing more than another boring, wasted four hours of my life, to tack on to the 57 previous hours of awful, dull college football bowl games as viewed from my well-worn holiday divan.

The traditional New Years' Day bowl games, usually good for gently soothing a bad hangover, only made mine worse. The worst game of the day, or the entire bowl season? That would be impossible to quantify. But you wouldn't go too wrong picking the day's first offering, Oklahoma vs. Arkansas in the once upon a time prestigious Cotton Bowl. It was the bowl season in microcosm. The 10am starting time -- while an embarrassment akin to telling Julia Roberts you need to pick her up at five because you have a hot date at 10 -- doesn't wash for an excuse. The guys starting later did little or no better. Anyway, it was a hideously -- painfully -- dull affair, which only made my headache and general feeling of ennui much worse; setting a negative tone and mindset for the remaining 364 days of the shining new year. A bad thing for heavily medicated people. Arkansas completed two passes in four long hours. Two. Count 'em. Two. One-Two. This, I finally remembered, was why I grew up hating the Longhorns and that obscene wishbone. I suppose Oklahoma completed a few more. They probably ran for a few more yards, too. Who cared? It was really, really bad stuff. As a backhanded compliment, this is exactly how Oklahoma played and won all year. If you'll admit to watching any of the memorable Las Vegas Bowl -- Utah thrashed USC 10-6 -- you saw the only bowl game that gave the Cotton a run for sheer offensive incompetence.

By about 11:30am CST (halftime in Dallas), I was willing to pay lots of dollars for the good pharmaceutical speed once so prevalent in a past debauched lifestyle. The money was there; the connections were not. So I sat, alone, in a dark room, with a sick boxer, on a gloomy, evil day, sinking ever deeper into a New Year's Day depression, staring stupidly at a television set that offered no relief ... and the day was young.

If the Cotton Bowl has become the dowdy, dowager Old Lady Bowl, then the Old Whore Slut Bowl, with entertainment stolen from Austin's long defunct Aqua Fest, is the Orange. This game, which came on the air exactly 9.5 hours after the Cotton, was the day's last shot at football redemption. Though it featured 66 more points than were scored on the icy floor of the Cotton Bowl, it was just as dull. This seemed a harsh and unnecessary blow. The Orange Bowl held, for the three people in America who picked Maryland, some pre-game hope. An optimism smothered and suffocated within minutes by Spurrier and the Gators. I picked Maryland to win, or at least compete, not because I could name a single player on their roster (I could not) or because I'd ever seen them play a down (I had not). I just assumed, at 11-1, they had to be better than a 16-point underdog to a heavily hyped team like Florida. (They were not.)

It was a terrible bowl season, the poorest I can remember (which isn't much, since I thought Arizona won the NCAA basketball title last spring, a horrendous gaffe kept from you only by an anonymous, eagle-eyed proofreader). The single exciting and well-played football game was UT's win in San Diego, it seems like six months ago. It's no secret that I'm not a playoff fanatic, but dear God, the entire premise of the BCS -- to put together a title game, common sense be damned -- has rendered every other bowl, to quote my friend Robert Heard, "As useless as teats on a steer," or deer or pig or something like that, sorry Robert. I'm neither the first nor the ten thousandth fan to make this observation. But in truth, the old bowl system, which at least pitted conference champions against each other (Rose and Cotton) in a predictable system and left other major bowls (Orange and Sugar) to cobble together whatever match-up the old racists in gaudy sport jackets thought would rake in the most money, this was better. Much better. A Sugar Bowl with Texas/Florida and an Orange Bowl match-up of Miami and ... well ... umm ... well, how about the Oakland Raiders, that there's some shit I'd have watched. But I'm not the point. I watch the shit anyway.

I am, I have often been told, a very sick man.

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