A big bowl of politics and football

By David Curtis

College football and presidential primary politics make strange bedfellows, but in this New Year I think they have been sharing the same sheets.

The dust, or better yet, the snow, has already settled on the Iowa caucuses and winners Huckabee and Obama, the rest of the candidates, media, and political machinery are blitzing New Hampshire. AND we still don’t know who will be crowned college football’s national champs — Ohio State or LSU.

Of course, as you read this you will know the winner — the game was played Monday night — but to make paper deadline for Wednesday distribution I wrote this column on Saturday. By the time you read this you will also know who won the presidential primary in New Hampshire, which was Tuesday.

Confused, you should be. My wife makes the comparison to the movie “Groundhog Day” where every day Bill Murray wakes up to the same day — Groundhog Day. Likewise, New Years has come and gone and we are still waking up to college Bowl Day.

Six bowl games on New Years Day, enough to satisfy the heartiest appetite, but wait ... Wednesday was the Fiesta Bowl, Thursday the Orange Bowl, Saturday the International Bowl (congratulations, you get to go to Toronto in January), Sunday was the GMAC Bowl, and then finally Monday night the National Championship game was played — it didn’t have a bowl name, because they ran out.

It’s a week into 2008 and we’re still trying to wrap up details from last year. It use to be that on New Years Day we got up and watched college football until the last team mascot was hung and the next day we woke up and there was a national champion. We moved on and put the past year behind us. A year older and a year wiser, we got on with our lives, stepped into the new year, broke our short-lived resolutions and set our sights on spring. (Which means college basketball and March Madness.)

How did we evolve into three weeks of bowl games? To me, it’s all about the money and the TV networks. The same can be said for presidential politics. Why are the primaries starting so early? The answer is money and media exposure.

States move their primaries up so, they tell us, they can better help decide who’s next in the White House. This perpetual backwards leap-frogging of primary dates caused the candidates to start campaigning earlier to gather support, media coverage and the almighty fundraising dollar that fuels the longer campaign, media coverage and fund raising events. Holy hamster wheel Batman! BAM! WHAM! POW!

The underlying factor is, of course, “It’s the money stupid.” The payout for college football’s biggest bowl games is reported at $17 million per game. This is interesting because ABC News has reported that multimillionaire presidential hopeful Governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., in the first nine months of 2007 pumped $17 million of his own money into his campaign. Hell, he could have sponsored his own bowl game.

“This is Keith Jackson welcoming you to the Mitt Romney Presidential Quest Bowl where the Buckeyes of Ohio State University will play the Tigers of LSU for the national championship. Joining me in the booth today doing color commentary is none other than the former governor himself, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.”

“Thanks Keith, there’s nothing more American than college football, being pro-life, gun rights, and strong on national defense and immigration reform. This should be a great game between two well-coached teams, and if anyone gets hurt I have a proven national health care plan that I will be detailing in the second quarter. Let me mention Keith we have great half time program lined up with Donny and Marie singing their greatest hits accompanied by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”

It has been reported that just in Iowa alone Romney spent $7 million on campaign ads, while former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucus, spent a mere $1.4 million. What if Romney, instead of buying airtime and print space, spent the $7 million on building a new school, a rural health clinic, or an urban youth center for the citizens of Iowa? Positive campaign spending replacing negative campaign ads — what would Karl Rove think?

I forgot to mention that after Monday’s championship game there’s still the Hula Bowl, the East-West Shrine Classic and the Senior Bowl — the Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida primary, the Super Bowl, the 22 state Super Tuesday primary and then finally NASCAR starts — which, thank goodness, gets us to March.

(David Curtis teaches middle school in Haywood County and is in need of two tickets to next year’s Hillary Bowl. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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