Word Stock Market: Bowl Game

The Word Stock Market is an occasional feature on SellingOut.com, where I will tell you whether to buy, sell or hold a certain word based on whether that word has a strong future or has seen better days. For example, if you’d bought the word “hybrid” 10 years ago (when it meant a cross between a horse and a donkey, not an eco-friendly car), you’d be rich today. On the other hand, if you’d bought “digital camera,” you’d be broke.

Today’s Word Stock is Bowl Game.

This year, 35 different college football games will be played that are called “Bowl Games.” For the non-football fan, let me explain.

Back in the old days, several of the best teams from the regular football season met in games with colorful names in interesting locations. These games were called “bowl” games, because the first one took place in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The Rose Bowl was named because of the bowl-like shape of the stadium and the roses that grew in Southern California year-round. I think this last part was mostly a way to taunt East Coasters who were freezing on New Year’s Day, but still.

But let’s define “old days” as the distant and murky year of 1996, when Amazon still only sold books. You know … two presidents ago. In 1996, there were 18 bowl games. They were called the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Rose, Sugar, Bluebonnet, Hall of Fame, Peach, Freedom, Gator, Aloha, Citrus, Sun, Liberty, Holiday, Cherry, Independence and California Bowls.

That means 36 of the 200 or so teams got to play in one of these games as a way of marking success in the season. Most didn’t have a shot of becoming the national champion, but they and their fans could go somewhere on a New Year’s trip, and they had a 50/50 shot at being the champion of a bowl. Most of the bowls at that time had some tradition. It meant something, in the world of football, to go to the Gator Bowl, for example, even though that wasn’t really one of the biggies.

How many bowls are there this year, you ask?


Thirty-five bowl games, meaning 70 of 200 teams get to “celebrate” their “successful” season and try to become a Bowl Champion.

In reality, of course, virtually all of these bowls now mean nothing. Part of the reason they mean nothing is that the vast majority don’t have any tradition or importance, which of course takes time. Another big part is that they are really little more than a vehicle for a sponsorship.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a little sample of the names from this year’s bowls: Royal Purple Las Vegas, Famous Idaho Potato, R+L Carriers New Orleans, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg, Little Caesars Pizza, Belk, Taxslayer.com Gator, BBVA Compass and, my personal favorite, the AdvoCare V100 Bowl.

No, that wasn’t a list of corporate sponsors. Actually, it’s that too, but in fact that’s a list of the names of some of the bowls themselves. I assure you, nobody is proud of this.

But hey, you might say, if it’s working, so what? The only flaw in that theory is that it’s not working. As this Sports Illustrated article explains, bowl attendance is down, even for the big ones. Schools are eating massive costs in guaranteeing ticket sales to bowl games nobody wants to go to. (I know it’s hard to believe you can’t get your fans to travel across the country for the chance to win the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl!)

It’s not working. It’s dying. A relatively small number of games that meant something and had some kind of character were replaced by something that no one cares about so that a sponsor can put a name on it.

Look at the numbers. This is a bubble in mid-pop.

RATING: SELL. You might be able to beat the stampede to the exits.

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