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In Defense Of The Rose Bowl And Tradition

Eh, just another catch, just another game.  Whatever.  And get off my lawn. (Photo by Jeff Gross, Getty Images North America)
Eh, just another catch, just another game. Whatever. And get off my lawn. (Photo by Jeff Gross, Getty Images North America)

Last week, DJ wrote up a nice piece on his thoughts about the Rose Bowl taking it's place on history's scrap heap, next to horse drawn carriages, surgery without anesthesia, and all but one half of one of Michigan's national championships.

I wanted to write a rebuttal earlier, but I had a lot of commitments elsewhere in the SB Nation, and to be honest, I kind of needed to count to 10. Thousand.

I stand here today in defense of the Rose Bowl, and in defense of the traditions that made college football better than damn near everything else on the planet.

I love the traditions that are tied to college football, and to Ohio State. I love the B1G attachment to the Rose Bowl, and if it were up to me, I'd just go back to the old bowl tie-in system and be done with it.

Hey, I know I'm in the small minority on this, and I also get that there's going to be a playoff. That's what most of you want, and the mob won't be quelled until they get their playoff, so fine. And this isn't an impassioned defense of Ted Miller's writing style, but this is the part of the story where DJ's article will come into play for the folks that feel the way he does:

Not that I really care about tradition. I've found "tradition" is usually nothing more than the last-line-of-defense for some idiot's argument in favor of archaic institutions. So I find it hilarious to watch people whine and wax philosophical about the Rose Bowl, as if it's some time-tested tradition which will live on the tongues of generations to come and echo through eternity.

So, you'll probably think this is funny. And for the record, if I was younger and hadn't grown up with the old system, I'd probably feel the same way. But for me, there's something that just doesn't feel right about setting up a playoff. I know it sounds dumb, and I know it sounds pretty 'get off my lawn-ish' but there's something to be said for tradition.

For those of you that will never really know what January 1st used to really be like, I feel sorry for you. I really do. It was all of the BCS games on in one day, with a smorgasbord of fantastic football from about 11 in the morning until damn near midnight. There was no 'Capital One Bowl Week', with a gluttony of 6-6 or 7-5 teams playing for a trophy gaudier and more tasteless than the Land-Grant trophy. You had some bowls, but they were undercards with teams that were just pretty good as opposed to great.

Oh, January 1st is still football overload, but they're largely made for TV games (see last year's Gator Bowl suckfest) that have about as much tradition as clipping toenails. Or, in the case of said Gator Bowl, they are a former undercard bowl that's been moved to New Year's Day to replace the now-BCS games that have been spread out over a four month period that goes from roughly January 1st to baseball's opening day. Part of the reason we have this indifference to the Rose Bowl is the glut of bowl games, period. Most of these bowl matchups have been made to promote corporate sponsors more than promote a football game, and if the goal was to de-sensitze the public at large towards bowls and generate a groundswell for a playoff, congratulations. You've succeeded.

Under the old system, there was controversy over who was number 1, but not much more controversy as there is now, and with this four team playoff, I doubt you'll seriously quell all of the arguments we have now. There's still going to be an argument over what teams didn't make the semi-finals, and eventually, you'll expand to 8, then 16 teams. Hell, right now the powers that be can't even decide if the four teams should be conference champions, or the 'consensus' four best teams, however they'll reach that conclusion. I think it's inevitable that 'mission creep', for lack of a better term will set in. There will be just as much controversy over who got screwed at 5 and 6 as there is now over the BCS title game that 8, and then 16 teams, seems an inevitablility. Be it 5 years or 10, it’s going to happen.

And still you'll have arguments. People will be unhappy that games are played at home stadiums of higher seeds, and demand neutral site games. If it's a neutral site game, people will hue and cry about games being on-campus. How teams are selected will be scrutinized. Arguments that we're not even thinking about now will be created to decry the selection process, and within a generation this soon-to-be playoff format will be called a sham, just like the BCS, the Bowl Alliance, and the AP and UPI coronation process before it.

But the bowls that made college football what it is today will still be dead.

Many will rejoice. I will not. I will always want the B1G to be tied to the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl more than any other bowl, and the B1G and Pac-8/10 teams that predominantly played in it, helped to grow college football into the monster that it is. To discount that is just distasteful to me, like wanting to build a strip mall on a Civil War battlefield. And bitching about the Rose Bowl venue seems akin to going to Normandy Beach and bitching about the water being cold. Way to not 'get it', Nebraska fan.

(Ed note: Oh, for the record---I get that the greatest invasion in human history pales in comparison to a college football playoff, well past the point of asinine. But most of my life has been spent in the military, and those are the only analogies/metaphors I can come up with on a regular basis that make sense for me. So stop with the sanctimonious emails, I'm just trying to make a point, okay?)

There's nothing wrong with progress, but this isn't progress. It's just re-creating another set of arguments in another format that at the end of the day won't quell the controversies we're dealing with today. It will eventually be 21st century regression to the mean, and in 20 years we'll still be 'tweaking' a playoff system, and still not everyone will be happy.

One of the absolutely coolest things about college football is that with a meaningful bowl win, multiple teams can finish the season on a high note, and winning a big bowl game allowed multiple teams to feel like true champions. With the dilution of the bowls, that's not the case anymore. Lesser bowls are a financial drain on some schools, and really, is it a reward to go to Detroit in December? If you want to make the bowls mean something again, get rid of over half of the bowls, play them starting Dec 26th, and the last gluttony of bowl games are played on Jan 1st.

Will this be the end of college football and civilization as we know it? No, of course not. Life will go on. And college football will still be awesome. But it will be different, and it will permanently change, and I'm not sure that it will be for the better.

So be careful what you wish for, because you're about to get it.