' ' Cinema Romantico: Deciding Which College Football Bowl Games Should Be Renamed

Monday, December 20, 2021

Deciding Which College Football Bowl Games Should Be Renamed

It’s bowl season! By which I mean, it’s college football’s postseason, constituting multitudinous bowl games contested at various locales throughout the United States and the Bahamas. There are a gluttonous 42 bowl games this year, two of which constitute a playoff and therefore “count”, per the sport’s litany of grinches, while the others are merely glorified exhibitions. Of course, that was the original intent of bowl games, played after the season and after the national champion had been roughly determined in various polls run by various gridiron kingmakers and factions. If they frequently doubled as civic institutions, a way to promote tourism, bowls were also festive getaways for players and coaches. Who cares who’s number one now? You’re in Pasadena, or New Orleans, or Miami, or Tempe, live a little. And once upon a time this festiveness also manifested itself in bowl game names themselves. That’s mostly gone now, save for the most long running iterations of these games, as bland and unthinking as modern architecture, not just in the contests garishly named solely for corporate sponsors but in the bowls with actual monikers born of nothing more than groupthink. I am not disillusioned by bowls; I am just disillusioned by bowl names. And that is why I am here in my capacity as a devotee and amateur aficionado of bowl games to decide, once and for all, whether each and every bowl should retain its current name or get a new one. 

Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Sun, Fiesta, Citrus, Peach: At one time, the latter three bowls were new kids on the block in comparison to the preceding five stalwarts. But now the Fiesta and Citrus and, especially, the Peach, a top 5 all-time bowl name manifesting the local color of its Atlanta location, have settled right alongside the others as exemplars of naming bowl games. 

Gator: Much like the Peach Bowl honors its Atlanta setting, so does the Gator Bowl honor its Florida setting. And just like the Peach Bowl tragically lost its original moniker for a period, existing as the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Gator Bowl, too, became a brand-only bowl, the TaxSlayer Bowl, for a short time. That egregious error was rectified in 2018 and hopefully stays that way. Let it be, corporate idiots.

Alamo: True, there has been recent pushback on what really happened at the Alamo and what it really means. But. Bowl games are, by nature, meant to embody the sensation of ballyhoo. Alamo Bowl is a fine bowl game name. It stays.

Outback: A mainstay of the tragically watered down New Year’s Day slate for some time, Outback, of course, refers not to the remote regions of Australia but the American steakhouse. Originally, this was the Hall of Fame Bowl until Outback assumed sponsorship of the game and also installed itself as the namesake. Really, Hall of Fame wasn’t much of a name either, borrowed from a preexisting bowl that went away. But if we look back further, to the 1940s, the first bowl contested in Tampa was the Cigar Bowl, given Tampa’s Cigar City nickname, which is just the sort of local descriptor we should want in bowl games. And if Cigar won’t do in this day and age, fine, just take Tampa’s other nickname instead, The Big Guava. I mean, my god, The Big Guava Bowl.

Holiday: Obvious, maybe, simple, perhaps, but superb too, perfectly evocative of how bowl games are intended as respites from all the annoying big picture hullabaloo. 

Camellia: Sort of a mini Rose Bowl, I admire this one for not just calling itself the Montgomery Bowl, or the Alabama Bowl. 

Military, Armed Forces: At the risk of offending the easily offended Why Do You Hate The Troops? kind of people, a Military Bowl and an Armed Forces Bowl is overmuch. My solution is ditching the Armed Forces Bowl because it’s in Fort Worth and keeping the Military Bowl because it’s in Annapolis, a much more appropriate and much more picturesque setting. But then give the Military Bowl a little historical flavoring by rechristening it the Army of the Potomac Bowl. 

Independence, Liberty: Again, as above, an Independence and a Liberty Bowl is overkill. Here we need to ditch Liberty and keep Independence. True, the Liberty Bowl is older but the Independence Bowl, a staple of bowl season since the mid-70s, has become a premiere example of of joyful kitsch of the smaller tiered college postseason exhibitions, from its quaint Shreveport setting to its long-running list of corporate sponsors that, oddly, lyrically, evoke America’s own trajectory. (Poulan-Weed Eater Independence Bowl is the second finest corporate sponsorship/bowl game marriage of all time after the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl which made it sound like the Fiesta Bowl was, you know, kissed by the sun.) 

Pinstripe, Fenway: I am, of course, against cold weather bowls in general. It violates the very This Is Vacation, Not Business spirit of the bowl. Both these bowls should hit the bricks. But at least the Pinstripe Bowl isn’t just called the Yankee Stadium Bowl. 

Quick Lane: Briefly in the 80s there was another Detroit bowl, held at the old Pontiac Silverdome, called the Cherry Bowl . Why can’t we just bring that back? Any fruit name is a good bowl name.

Guaranteed Rate: Ugh. C’mon. See above. You’re in Phoenix. Call yourself the Valley of the Sun Classic. Ok, ok, the Guaranteed Rate Valley of the Sun Classic. 

Duke’s Mayo: Now I contradict myself. Granted, I have long been desperate for this North Carolina-set bowl, originally called the Continental Tire Bowl, to call itself the Grape Bowl after the state fruit. I really, really want a Grape Bowl. But Duke’s Mayo is a fine product. It stays. 

Cheez-It: Cheez-It is a fine product too but a stupider sounding name. And yet. This game has, in its short lifespan, earned a reputation for being delightfully stupid. It stays.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: If you’re going to have a bowl game in Idaho, and you should not (again, this blog is against all cold weather bowl games), then it should absolutely be called the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. 

Celebration: Contested between the champions of the two prominent Historically Black College University conferences, the MEAC and the SWAC, I prefer this game’s original moniker, the Pelican Bowl. But that’s when it was in New Orleans, not Atlanta, and hey, a game between prominent HBCU programs should be celebrated. Good name. 

Gasparilla: Now here is a bowl game that figured its shit out. Born in 2008, it was christened the St. Petersburg Bowl, merely named for where it was played, like some woefully titled bowls we will get to momentarily. Eventually, though, the St. Petersburg Bowl saw the light and renamed itself for the city’s century old Gasparilla Festival. See? It’s not so hard. 

LendingTree: That brings us to this monstrosity. Named for an online mortgage company, God help us, the LendingTree Bowl is played in Mobile, Alabama, famous, of course, for its Carnival celebration before Lent. Just call this damn thing the Carnival Bowl already. How hard is that?

First Responder: I am not against First Responders. I love First Responders. First Responders are greater people than I will ever be. But can we still give this is a real bowl name? Though it’s no longer hosted at the real Cotton Bowl on the Texas State Fairgrounds, I still think we can honor the Texas State Fair Ideal by calling this the Fried Coke Bowl. Really, a Fried Coke Bowl is the perfect way to honor First Responders if you think about it. 

Cure: Like First Responders, I can’t in good conscience argue against a bowl named to promote and fund research of breast cancer. But. If the game is in Orlando, couldn’t we at least honor the city’s famed Lake Eola Fountain by calling this the Lake Eola Fountain Cure Bowl, the only bowl game brought to you a literal fountain. 

Music City: I’m going to allow it if only because it’s light years better than Nashville Bowl. 

And so. We now come to my least favorite development in modern bowl game monikers, the ones that simply name themselves after the hosting place, underscoring the kind of unimaginative creative thinking that too often seems to define America in all walks of life these days. 

Bring back the Copper Bowl

Arizona: The Arizona Bowl, played in Tucson, is not to be confused with the above-mentioned Guaranteed Rate Bowl, played in Phoenix. But. The latter is older, originally called the Copper Bowl, briefly even called the Cactus Bowl, either of which would be much better names than Arizona Bowl. 

Bahamas: I suppose because it’s a foreign country and not, say, Florida, you can make a case that Bahamas Bowl is appropriately exotic. But I still think we could make this one more festive. Bahamas Goombay Punch is, as the name implies, a Bahamian soft drink. And so here place and product could poetically meet: the Bahamas Goombay Punch Bowl. 

Birmingham: See the Music City Bowl above. Birmingham is the Magic City. Call this the Magic City Bowl. 

Boca Raton: Though I’m slightly less opposed to this one, I am opposed to the full Boca Raton Bowl name. This should simply be the Boca Bowl. The Boca Bowl sounds like a blast! 

Frisco: Though it references the place, that place’s name is culled from the old St. Louis-San Francisco Railway. As such, I’m going to allow it.  


Hawaii: The old Honolulu-hosted bowl, the Aloha Bowl, traditionally played on Christmas Day when I was a kid, was a Top 5 all-time bowl game name, right up there with Peach and Sugar. That game fell by the wayside and was reborn as the Hawaii Bowl because the whole word is boring now. 

LA: The brand new LA Bowl is probably less noteworthy for that name than its full branding - The Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl. And you know what? I’m not against it. In fact, I wish this had been around in the 60s and 70s as the Johnny Carson LA Bowl. Well, not the LA Bowl. In 1924 there was a postseason college football game dubbed the Los Angeles Christmas Festival. And that sounds exquisite. The Johnny Carson Los Angeles Christmas Festival could have become a true civic institution. (I like to imagine David Letterman resurrecting the defunct Refrigerator Bowl from his native state. The David Letterman Refrigerator Bowl.)

Las Vegas: Surprisingly, perhaps, I am not opposed to the Las Vegas Bowl. I mean, it’s Las Vegas. Las Vegas describes itself well enough. It stays. 

Myrtle Beach: “Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – or as we like to say, The Beach – is where you can find 60 miles of beautiful coastline and 14 unique communities,” it says right there on the Myrtle Beach website. So ditch Myrtle Beach, just call this The Beach Bowl and play the thing right there on The Beach. Like a new-fangled version of the old Boardwalk Bowl. I mean, you’re trying to sell the beach, aren’t you, so what are we even doing here?

New Mexico: New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment. Call this the Enchantment Bowl. It’s not rocket science. 

New Orleans: You’re in freaking New Orleans! New Orleans would never have anything to do with such a plain jane sounding event. The Crawfish Etouffee Bowl is just sitting there, waiting, for the love of God.

Texas: You’re Texas! You’re huge! That’s the whole damn point, isn’t it, that it’s Like A Whole Other Country and you can’t come up with anything better than Texas Bowl???!!! What makes it even worse is this bowl is in Houston and there once was a postseason game in Houston called the Bluebonnet Bowl. Bring the Bluebonnet Bowl back, you absolute bores, or cancel the whole thing.


Will Hansen said...

This was a lot of fun! Personally I'm in favor of requiring each bowl game to have a name that reflects something that can be served in a bowl (preferably as the trophy given to the winning team, as in the bowl full of oranges for the Orange Bowl), or that a bowl can be made out of. This is why Duke's Mayo and Cheez-It are fine, fine bowl names (and they really should make the Duke's Mayo trophy a big ol' bowl of that fine mayo). It's also always a lot of fun, corporate sponsorship notwithstanding, to refer to the Fiesta Bowl as "for all the Tostitos." Also why the Big Guava Bowl would be sublime.

I like a lot of yours, but others I'd change:

-Sun Bowl: Tamale Bowl
-Alamo Bowl: Salsa Bowl (there should really be a Salsa Bowl)
-Holiday Bowl: Poinsettia Bowl (didn't there used to be one of these?)
-Liberty: Barbecue Bowl (trophy's just slabs of Memphis-style ribs in a nice bowl)
-Independence: Punch Bowl (the founders loved punch)
-Pinstripe: gotta be the New York Style Pizza Bowl
-Fenway: Chowder Bowl
-Guaranteed Rate: Cactus Bowl
-Cure: Clementine (would also accept Lemon or Lime or Kumquat--there are still so many citrus to go around!)
-Birmingham: Biscuit Bowl (how is there not a Biscuit Bowl?!)
-Frisco: Oil Bowl
-Las Vegas: Neon Bowl (trophy for this one would be rad)
-Myrtle Beach: Crab Bowl (as classy as MB itself)
-New Mexico: Hatch Chile Bowl
-Texas: Brisket Bowl

Nick Prigge said...

Willie, first things first, it brings me so much cheer to know you have thought this much about bowl game names as much as me. Truly, so much cheer. And I like the prospective rule about a bowl needing to be named after something that can be served in a bowl. I mean, that's why Sugar Bowl has always been, for me, the best bowl game name.

There SHOULD be a Salsa Bowl! It made so much sense when I read it! And I am in favor of retaining the Fenway Bowl if we can name it the Chowder Bowl. That is so much better! Also in favor of retaining the Liberty Bowl if it changes to the Barbecue Bowl. I also love Punch Bowl for so many reasons. There needs to be Punch Bowl, somewhere, anywhere. I also like Oil Bowl for the Frisco Bowl. That's better. In fact, there WAS an Oil Bowl, very briefly, in the 40s. Time to resurrect it.