Last Monday, December 22, marked the 30th anniversary of the first college football game I ever attended.
The game was the Florida Citrus Bowl between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida State Seminoles.
Joining me for my first in person taste of gridiron glory from our seats among the “Zonies” on a warm 80 degree Orlando, Florida winter day were my mom, grandmother and cousin.
Thanks to the magic of the internet I was able to watch a grainy broadcast of the game yesterday to see if I could find any shots of my family in the stands. Sadly I did not.
With two family members rooting for each side, it was probably for the best that the game ended in a 17-17 tie so that each of us could feel like we won.
I had the opportunity to attend many other games at the Citrus Bowl Stadium during my time as both a student and as a Sports Information Office intern at the University of Central Florida but 1984 marked my only trip to a bowl game.
While the UCF Knights no longer play at there, the Citrus Bowl will once again be filled with screaming fans tomorrow as the college football bowl season is in full swing.
There are 39 bowl games on the schedule this year from coast to coast.
Bowl games were even played beyond the continental United States in Hawaii and the Bahamas.
Plans call for even more games next year as cities and companies try to capitalize on the popularity of college football and bring the bowl experience to their cities.
Bowl games are profitable and allow schools who are “bowl eligible” to play one more game while the schools who did not make the cut get an early start on next year.
Bowl games also allow sports networks to sell lots and lots of commercials to pad their pockets before the lean months of the sporting calendar begin.
The Bowl system has changed dramatically since younger me saw his first game and this year offers college football’s version of a playoff where four teams were chosen to battle for the National Championship.
I know that we are all supposed to rally behind the playoff selection committee and say that a college playoff is good and just, but the fact remains that it still boils down to a subjective selection, if not a full blown popularity contest.
While not getting into details on the four chosen teams and whether or not they belong, the fact remains they were chosen by human beings instead of the way other sports select their playoff teams.
In every other professional sport, and let’s not kid ourselves by thinking that college football is not a professional sport, playoff teams are selected based on either winning your division or being a wild card team.
While this system in the NFL brought us a division winner with a losing record, everyone knows the rules going into it.
There is no room for debates on strength of schedule or other subjective factors. It is very cut and dry as to who is and is not in the playoffs.
It is likely that college football will never be able to remove all of the subjective nature of the playoffs based on the number of teams involved and other factors such as wanting teams from the power conferences to always be involved in the championship game.
The College Football Playoff system is not perfect and it never will be.
A March Madness type tournament where 64 basketball teams are whittled down to a single champion would likely not be feasible based on the number of days needed to recover after a football game, but I hold slightly more faith that a Final Four basketball Champion is more worthy than a football playoff champion.
So enjoy your bowl games and cheer on your alma mater but do not think that the four best schools in the country will always be represented in the playoffs.
That is not to say that it is time for the tin foil hat society to look for conspiracies and call Mulder and Scully to straighten things out. The Bowl Championship Series that preceded this year’s playoff format was equally flawed when it came to objectivity.
There is just too much room for error and too many cooks in the kitchen with agendas of their own for a football champion that all will agree on to be crowned.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to see if I can find my ticket stub from the 1984 Citrus Bowl.
Copyright 2014 R. Anderson