Let me start today with what is most important: Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and, of course, Happy Festivus to all. I hope everyone thrived—and survived—the holidays.
We are now in the midst of the bowls, which began 10 days ago and go on until January 9th. As someone who was closely associated for 14 years with a school that aspired each year to reach a second tier bowl, I am not one to put down what I sometimes refer to as the ‘six-and-six bowls.’ I did a count last week and I believe there are 11 teams with 6-6 records who have ‘earned,’ bowl bids this season. That does NOT count UCLA, which is 6-7, or North Carolina State which was 5-5 against Division 1-A teams and padded its record to 7-5 with a pair of wins against 1-AA teams. (Sorry NCAA, still not buying into your new euphemisms for your football divisions).
As I said, having done Navy games for 14 years and knowing what it meant to the players and the fans to go to second-tier bowls for the past eight seasons, I don’t put these bowls down. I see a reason for their existence although the number of empty seats at many of them—including some of the BCS bowls—is remarkable and hearing the poor announcers trying to say the corporate names with a straight face time-after-time is laughable. Did you catch last night’s AdvoCare 100 Independence Bowl? Of course that game has come a long way from the days when it became symbolic of second-tieredness (I know, that’s not a word) when it was known as The Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl.
N.C. State is playing in what is now known as The Belk Bowl. If you scoring at home, that’s a department store that is based, I believe, in North Carolina. At least that’s where I’ve encountered it. The Belk, as I like to call it, is played in Charlotte. It has existed for about 10 to 12 years and this is, I think, its FOURTH corporate sponsor. When Navy played in it in 2006 it was The Meineke Car Care Bowl. It can be tough to know which bowl is played where because they change names just about every year. How about this: The Cotton Bowl—can’t remember the corporate name and I’m not going to look it up—is now played in Jerry Jones Stadium while the actual Cotton Bowl stadium hosts something called The Ticket City Bowl. This makes almost as much sense as the fact that Manhattan College is located in The Bronx.
I honestly don’t care who wins the national championship game whenever they finally get around to playing it. I sort of like Les Miles because he comes off as a goof ball but is clearly an excellent coach and I don’t like Nick Saban since he apparently thinks he’s God. (Don’t tell Tim Tebow). So, I’d lean to LSU but the chances that I’ll still be up at midnight when that game finally ends are somewhere between slim and none and slim has to be up at 6 the next morning.
How about this little piece of news for you: In order to send their bands to the championship game Alabama and LSU will each have to pay about $500,000 apiece. A large part of this is because they are being charged $350 a ticket for seats in the stands. Aah, the down home traditions of college football, right? Are you kidding: $350 a pop to get your band into the stadium? Here’s what the two schools should do: They should tell The Sugar Bowl people—who are in charge of the championship game this year—where to stick their $350 tickets, leave the bands home and give that money to one of The Katrina relief funds.
How do you think ESPN would like a band-less national championship game? I now believe I was wrong when I labeled the NCAA the most corrupt organization on earth. It is tied with all the bowls who use their power—teams desperately want to play postseason football SOMEWHERE, even in Mobile and Shreveport and Detroit—to blackmail the schools into paying for tickets that will never be sold and now, for tickets for their BANDS.
What next, buying standing room tickets for the players and coaches on the sidelines? Can these people be any more obnoxious and corrupt?
When Navy participated in bowl games in the past we were always required at some point to have on some bowl official in an ugly jacket as a halftime guest. Needless to say, I didn’t participate in those interviews. I don’t think I missed much.
Since my book tour is now pretty much over, I want to thank all the people who came out to the book signings I did in Washington, Indianapolis and Raleigh. It was really heartening that so many people came although I have to apologize on behalf of Little, Brown for the lousy job that was done with distribution which caused book shortages at the signings and, apparently, in quite a few places.
This is a good news/bad news deal for any author. On the one hand I can say, ‘we’re into our fifth printing (which we are) in only three weeks.’ On the other hand that’s a sign that the publisher badly miscalculated how the book was going to sell and then was slow to react when the book began selling beyond what they expected. It’s embarrassing for ME when booksellers say they can’t re-order books and it is downright frustrating when for close to a week both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com are posting that books can’t be delivered before Christmas because the book is out of stock.
I say that not to rip Little, Brown which, for the most part, has published me very well dating to ‘A Good Walk Spoiled,’ but so people understand that no one is more upset than I am when they can’t get the books that they want to get.
Obviously, sales have been good and the reviews and the feedback I’ve gotten have been gratifying. There are now—finally—enough books out there. I know that doesn’t help those who were looking for holiday gifts but given that the overall word-of-mouth has been excellent I hope people will continue to look for it in the coming weeks and months. The book was as much fun as I’ve had in a while.
Finally: I’ve been asked quite a few times in the last few weeks if I watched the ‘Showtime,’ Army-Navy documentary. Any of you who know me know the answer to that question: No. I did see a couple of the promotional trailers they (endlessly) sent out and, because I know anything I say will come off as biased and jaded (which it is) I’ll keep most of my opinions to myself. All I’ll say is this: Given the money that was spent and the access that they had I thought there would be new ground broken. I didn’t hear or see anything about Army-Navy I hadn’t heard or seen before. The production was impressive and glitzy. I was also amused every time I heard someone from CBS talk about the project as if NO ONE had ever thought to do something like this before. Please.
Am I still pissed off? You bet. And I make no apologies for feeling that way. For those who are inclined to write and day, 'get over it,' I will. Just not quite yet.
My newest book is now available at your local bookstore, or you can order on-line here (we hope): One on One-- Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game