Sports

Blanchette: Bowl-hungry fans don’t do jaded

Spokesman-Review contributing sports columnist John Blanchette.  (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokesman-Review contributing sports columnist John Blanchette. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

ALBUQUERQUE – It’s bowl season, which means a bunch of September opponents are playing each other in December, leading up to a handful of games in January that America actually cares about.

This is the reality. Well, one reality.

The other is watching crimson-swaddled fans walking around here asking one another, “Isn’t it great?”

As contrived and silly as the bowl culture is, the only thing worse is not to be part of it.

It’s why a few hundred supporters from both Washington State and Colorado State gathered around a teetering Old Town gazebo Friday afternoon for an awkward pep rally, shouting “Red!” and “Green!” at an overmatched emcee who was determined to equate chile preference to football superiority.

Get it? The Cougars wear red and the Rams wear … never mind.

It was at this same event that a CSU backup quarterback was handed a microphone and declared that, “Washington State has a ‘W’ in its name, but we have a ‘W’ in our game.”

So if nothing else, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl has set trash talking back 50 years, and reminded everyone to lay in the properly hued condiments to go with the chips.

Otherwise, there’s not much new to report on the eve of this, the first of 35 must-see events on college football’s postseason menu – also known as the Grand Afterthought of Them All.

If the chile issue remains unresolved, the combatants did manage to settle the question of Albuquerque’s mile-high altitude and what effect it might have on the outcome of today’s 11 a.m. PST affair.

“It helps the kicker,” offered Rams coach Jim McElwain. “You ever play golf at a place like this? It’s awesome, man.”

Agreed WSU’s Mike Leach: “We’ll try (field goals) from 75 or so.”

Wow. It’s not like the coach to let strategy slip out like that.

Oh, and the game?

The game’s a lock. The line is Washington State and 41/2, but it might as well be 41/2 touchdowns.

This is no particular knock on the proud sons of Colorado State – just a knock on their schedule.

No one ever said you couldn’t get fat off low-hanging fruit. But you’d think the Rams would have mixed in some red meat somewhere along the line. Instead, the seven victories that ferried them to this high-desert reward came against a lineup that was 23-54 in its other games. If you don’t count a .500 Big Sky team, CSU’s best win came at the expense of 5-7 Wyoming, where the work of the staff was so appreciated that it was dispatched to look for new posts – some with the season in progress.

No, they don’t ask “How?” when it comes to bowl eligibility, only “How many?

If they asked “How?” then sponsors like Idaho’s potatoes, Royal Purple and, yes, Gildan would have to go throw their money at monster truck rallies and symphonies, because there wouldn’t be enough truly accomplished teams to satisfy ESPN’s holiday programming needs.

As it is, the Cougars themselves lost as many as they won this season. But while Snide Nation wants them to say, “Pardon me,” for crashing the bowl picnic, at least the Cougs did carve their initials into the table against a schedule rated anywhere from the 10th toughest in the nation to second, by various metrics, to the hardest of them all by Leach, who doesn’t have to mess with math.

No one sneers at a 12th seed in March Madness, but don’t you dare bring a 6-6 record into December Ditziness.

History is, of course, littered with the carcasses of heavily favored, big-conference teams that either partied too heartily at the bowl site or simply didn’t care to be at the Kewpie Doll Consolation Bowl.

The Cougars, however, have acquitted themselves well in their past appearances at the Triple-A bowl games.

Ancient history, yes.

But if you can say anything about Leach’s second Cougars team, it’s that they more or less took care of business against the teams they should have taken care of business with, Oregon State being a possible exception.

And you’d have to think that the taste of success is so new to these Cougs that simply getting to this game is not enough to leave them satisfied.

As for their fans, the end of a dreary, bowl-less decade has lured 5,000 Cougs to a bowl short on pageantry and gravitas in a city which, while pleasant enough, is not on the usual list of postseason paradises.

And they’re ready to party at altitude.



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