What makes a Rotten.com bowl game?

Some of my close friends (those who will not feel their souls seared by even casual sports talk) know what I mean by the above usage. For the rest of you, I have to explain.

US college football’s Division I-A (they changed the name to something stupid a few years back, which I refuse to acknowledge; you all should realize that the privilege of naming is a sort of subtle tyranny to dictate how people will think, a principle well understood by marketing departments and news channels) is the top level of collegiate football play. It has upwards of 125 teams. For the past century or so, season’s end and the Christmas holidays have meant a number of additional games, called bowls. Some bowls have a century of tradition and history by now. Others have none, nothing.

Each year, as bowls happen or cease to happen or change names, the pecking order shifts. For example, suppose that in the BigMarketingSalezzzzzzzz.com Bowl, the bowl sponsors and NCAA have agreed that the 7th place team in the Big Ten Conference (which calls itself the B1G–see what they did there?–and has fourteen teams) will receive an invitation to the BigMarketingSalezzzzzzzz.com Bowl, held December 22 in a warm-weather city with a suitable stadium and seeking to clamor for national attention. Nearly no spectators will actually attend the game, a fact that the TV cameras will do their best to conceal. After a lackluster matchup between a 6-6 Big Ten team and a less prestigious conference’s #3 (again for example), attended by approximately seven people, BigMarketingSalezzzzzzz.com decides not to blow wads of cash sponsoring a bowl next year, and another Rotten.com bowl has come and gone unlamented.

How did I pick 6-6 as a record? Because the crony system made a rule: can’t be bowl-eligible with a losing record. What the crony system failed to do is to stop the proliferation of Rotten.com bowls. Now there are eighty, with just over 125 potential teams in I-A. Not enough are bowl-eligible. Some 5-7 teams will get invitations. Some will be fool enough to refuse them.

Rotten.com is by now just a bad memory. In its dubious heyday, it was the website where you’d find some of the ugliest stuff on the Internet. Beheading videos? They were the ghoul’s first draft choice. I wasn’t an enthusiast, but I knew what it was and how to avoid finding it. Well, comes the dot-com era, and the year 2000 or so, and numerous companies arise whose names are web domains. The first may have been the scrofulous Insight.com Bowl, but soon there were more, such as the unbearable GalleryFurniture.com Bowl. As that trend developed, I decided that the lowest of the bowl low would probably have to be a Rotten.com Bowl, presumably played someplace repulsive. Since there’s no evidence that Rotten.com was ever an actual business name, that’s why it was satire.

Where does the money come from, since hardly anyone attends most of the games? Even the bowls with proper names (Rose, Sugar, Cotton, etc.) have taken on sponsorships. I remember the first time I heard about a “Federal Express Orange Bowl,” and the difficulty with which I contained the sudden quease. The sponsors weren’t fundamentally bad; what was/is bad was the media’s fellation. Print, online, and broadcast media, with absolutely nothing to gain, were and are glad to help out a corporate buddy by including the sponsor name in all instances of coverage. Evidently a few did not play ball, which is why some companies who sponsored Rotten.com bowls just named the whole bowl after themselves. If it has no other name than the Enron Bowl, the media have nothing else to call it.

To this end, I propose the Rotten.comness Rating System (RcRS). Its goal is to rank the bowls from useless to useful. The more points a bowl game accumulates, the worse it is, the champion receiving the dubious honor of the Rotten.com name prefixed to its official title in full, just as if Rotten.com still fully existed, were a company, and had ever sponsored bowls at all (it didn’t, but if it had, it would have to receive some special consideration). Thus, you might have the “Rotten.com GoEvilStepMommy.com Bowl.”

This does not need to be complicated. Do note that the full result cannot be determined until the end of bowl season, since attendance figures are required. Award one point for each of the following that is true:

  • Has no history under the current name
  • Has three or less years’ history under the current name
  • Has ten or less years’ history under the current name
  • Has twenty or less years’ history under the current name
  • Name is also the name of a corporation
  • Name is a corporate name that sounds like a word but isn’t (e.g., Taligent, Verizon, Ensighten, Disadvantis)
  • Name is a corporate name that in no way indicates what the hell they do
  • Name is a web domain
  • Name is so blazingly stupid it beggars all common sense (limit one per year, otherwise this would be overused)
  • Invites no nationally ranked teams (top 25 in either major poll)
  • Invites a team with a losing record in conference play (count independents’ overall record as a conference record)
  • Invites a team with a losing record overall
  • Invites two teams with losing records (unlikely, but we’re getting there one of these years)
  • Invites only teams with losing records (the logical conclusion to this farce)
  • Invites the University of Idaho Vandals (whom I like, but they are a longtime punching bag whose very arrival in a bowl game would raise its Rotten.comness)
  • Halftime show includes Celine Dion or Justin Bieber
  • Halftime show includes Kardashians (one point per Kardashian)
  • Bowl is played on or before December 20th
  • Bowl is played on or before December 23rd
  • Bowl has actual attendance less than 10,000
  • Bowl has actual attendance less than 20,000

Subtract one point for each of the following that is true:

  • Bowl is named Cotton, Orange, Sugar, or Rose
  • Bowl has an amusing wardrobe malfunction at halftime show
  • Halftime show includes the Stanford or Rice marching band
  • Halftime show’s outrageous gag results in the marching band being banned from a venue
  • Bowl name is amusing (imagine a Post Cereals Bowl, or a Tide Bowl, or a High Times Bowl)
  • Invites a top ten team in either major poll
  • Invites Army or Navy (because these were powerhouses in days of yore, thus an invitation represents tradition)
  • Has no corporate sponsor’s branding (dream on)
  • Sponsor’s executives are under indictment during bowl season
  • Sponsor declares bankruptcy during bowl season

Some of the conditions may go unmet each year, but we must think both ahead and positive.

And there you go. If there is sufficient interest, I may even take time to compile the preliminary rankings once all the lineups are set, which should be a few days away.

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