Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The ‘six-and-six bowls’; bands charged for tickets; thank you for the response to the book (and my apologies) and much more…

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 


Matt Dick said...

If you ever come do a book signing in Chicago, my 12 year-old daughter and I will be first in line.

John from Indiana said...

Am about 150 pages into the new offering and enjoying it immensely. My son was one of the fortunate few to get his hands on one of the first copies, so I was a lucky Dad on Christmas day. Reading those stories of "BK Theatre" brought back a whole bunch of great memories. As I read this book and the prologue stories that lead up to your year in B-Town, I remain amazed that The Mentor could find your account anything but "fair and balanced." (Never thought you'd hear those words associated with YOUR thoughts, huh?) NOBODY that ever followed IU hoops could EVER be surprised by any of the profanity in that book, yet 25 years later it still seems to be a prickly issue with him. To me, the story of Dr. Rink's wife's Christmas dinner was the perfect example of what made that book. Winston Morgan's rise out of the ashes, Knight's jousting with the windmills of Kentucky and the NCAA over Alford's calendar appearance, and all of those good, tough kids that lived and died to be Hoosiers, were that story. Knight's profanity was a given for any Indiana fan, and was probably softsold in the interest of a publishable book. I'll be going home this evening and looking forward to sitting down next to the fireplace with a glass of wine and working my way through re-visiting the rest of the last 25 years of JF memories. Thanks for bringing back so many of the people we have enjoyed getting to know through you.

Anonymous said...

I read a book about Army-Navy. Really good stuff. Can't remember the author, but I think he worked for one of the Washington papers. Anyway, after reading that book, I don't need to see some documentary.

goodman.dl said...

I don't think ESPN would mind all that much if there were no college bands at the Bowl Games.

Gunnar said...

Goodman, I agree with you. ESPN and the Bowls could suggest the bands stay on their own campus, and pre-record some cheering, fight songs, and maybe even the halftime show.
TV runs everything about sports, at the expense of fans attending games and players(start times of games, ridicuously long time outs, etc).
These bowl ticket requirements are near criminal. It will take a power school to turn down a bowl bid to get rid of them. I would love to see Notre Dame turn down the Gator Bowl or something like that.

Gunnar said...

Brilliant move for Big-10 and PAC-12...they are going to line up non-conference games each year. Plus they are planning to schedule and run their own bowl game or bowl games each year. Eliminate the bowl mafia and their $600k bowl planner executives, etc.

The conferences can run their own game. Possibly in their own stadiums. They can broadcast it on their own networks.

Get the leverage back to the University level.

omnivore said...

How can you be so sure no new ground was broken if all you saw was trailers and not the actual documentary?

Ed Tracey said...

John, am about halfway through and thoroughly enjoying this. The book description doesn't say this, but this book amounts to a sort of mini-memoirs for you (albeit not in an organized manner, but interspersed with outside events).

Temple Football Forever said...

excellent story, John. As someone who saw the joy on the faces of the Temple kids after getting the school's first bowl win in 32 years, I can attest to this being a big deal.
Not too many bowls at all but I would bring back the rule advancing a 7-5 team over a 6-6 team and an 8-4 team over a 7-5 team, etc.
6-7 UCLA vs. 6-6 Illinois does not pass my smell test.

Anonymous said...

I'd really like to see a response to omnivore's question.

Ed Tracey said...

John, just finished your book. Enjoyable from start-to-finish, two particular notes:

One disappointment: omitting pro football (and the year you spent with the Baltimore Ravens). Would have liked at least some follow-up.

Unexpected plus: reading about the help that Martina Navratilova gave to you in Prague.

For people who like you r work but don't want to slog through an entire book dedicated to just one sport: this is the ticket.

Mr. X said...

Congrats on the Sportwriter HOF!

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to see a response to omnivore's question.

Anonymous said...

Just out of idle curiousity, is Alison Muscatine the one and same as Lissa Muscatine, Senior Advisor and Chief Speechwriter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?