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Country will feel bowl void

Traditional games, big and small, added to nation’s psyche

It was unrealistic to expect the college football bowl season to completely escape the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. But one can hope.

As the sport’s postseason commences this weekend, 11 of the 43 bowl games that were originally scheduled have been canceled.

The Montgomery Bowl will replace the inaugural Fenway Bowl, but 20 football programs will miss out on the traditional bowl pageantry and affiliated experiences.

The impact of the cancellations extends well beyond the field of play.

Bearing the financial costs and crushing disappointment to varying degrees are the title sponsors, television networks, bowl volunteers, host communities, stadium personnel and anticipated traveling parties, however limited they might have been.

The cancellation of the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl will deprive the city of El Paso, Texas and the surrounding area of approximately $12-15 million dollars in economic stimulus.

Notably, the Sun Bowl, the second-oldest bowl game along with the Sugar and Orange bowls, will not be played for the first time since 1935.

Nearly a year into the pandemic, college sports fans now possess a shared understanding that breaks in tradition have become an unfortunate consequence of virus mitigation efforts.

Virtual connections, no matter the advances in technology, will never approximate actual involvement and interaction.

Taped band music is not the same as a live performance.

Granted, the cancellation of the inaugural Los Angeles Bowl may go unnoticed by even the most discerning of bowl connoisseurs, but there is a certain sadness that accompanies the realization that the Las Vegas, Hawaii and Holiday bowls will not serve as annual appetizers for the main courses served up by the New Year’s Six this year.

Even if they attracted only passing glances from channel surfers, it had always been comforting to know that those three bowls were as accessible as gingerbread and holly this time of year.

Of the 33 bowls still scheduled, eight will be contested in Florida, seven in Texas and four in Alabama.

In this year of anomalies, the New Mexico Bowl will be played in Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, because of COVID-19 restrictions in the state of New Mexico.

Toyota Stadium is one of five venues that will host more than one bowl game. Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, will be the most active bowl site with three games (Cure Bowl, Cheez-It Bowl and VRBO Citrus Bowl) in seven days.

The Pac-12 Conference will suffer most from the cancellation of the 11 bowls to date.

Pac-12 teams were slotted to play in five of the bowls. In addition to lost revenue, the conference and its teams will be denied the national exposure that the bowls would have generated.

This is particularly significant because the conference is unlikely to be represented in the College Football Playoff.

The Pac-12 is left with three bowl tie-ins, a New Year’s Six bowl and desperate pleas for at-large selections.

As virus cases, control measures and travel restrictions all expand across the country, ’tis the season to feast on a bowl lineup that spans spuds (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl), fruits (Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl), sweets (Allstate Sugar Bowl) and steaks (Outback Bowl).

With 33 bowl games spanning 15 days, the total number of games does not equal past slates, but it still represents a bright light during these darkest days of the global health crisis.

Jim Caltagirone resides in Altoona. He is a frequent contributor to Voice of the Fan.

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