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Tuesday, June 25, 2013
The cold truth about bowls in B1G territory

By Adam Rittenberg

I live in the Midwest. I also live in reality.

After hearing the gripes from a segment of Big Ten fans about the league adding bowl games in San Diego (Holiday) and the San Francisco Bay area (Kraft Fight Hunger) to the future postseason lineup, it's time for a reality check about bowls and the places in which they're played. As many of you know, the bowl system was launched to promote tourism in warm-weather cities and to allow fans, many of them in Big Ten country, to escape the cold around the holidays. There's a reason bowls are named after roses and oranges instead of snow plows and antifreeze.

People want to watch football in late December and early January in short sleeves and shorts. They want a vacation-like setting. The locations of the bowl games drive the appeal. That's the way it is, and the way it always will be.

While I understand the concerns about travel costs and the other challenges associated with attending bowl games far from home, none of this is new.

It's mystifying that some Big Ten fans can't get over the fact that the league continues to play virtual road games in the postseason, whether it's against the SEC in Florida, the Big 12 in Texas and now the Pac-12 in California. They wonder why there can't be more bowl games in the Midwest.

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Hard to argue against San Diego and the Holiday Bowl as a December vacation destination.
What do you not understand? No one wants to travel to Big Ten country in late December or early January when they could be in Florida, California or even Texas. They don't want to spend money here when they can have a vacation in a vacation-like environment. Sure, Big Ten fans are already living in the Midwest, but they're not going to spend a week in Detroit or Chicago or Indianapolis or Minneapolis around the holidays. They'll drive to and from the game like it's a regular-season Big Ten contest.

The limited experience Midwest bowl games offer underscores why they'll never be high-profile events. Do you disagree? Send me a marketing plan for a major bowl game in a Midwest city and I'll shoot holes in it. Remember, the most successful bowls appeal to multiple leagues and sponsors.

Monday was a day Big Ten fans should have been celebrating with sunscreen and sandals. The league added San Diego (!!!) to its lineup. What's the drawback? And yet I received tweets and emails grumbling about the additions. During a conference call to announce the two new bowl agreements, Michigan media members bombarded Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany with questions about whether the league still would play a bowl game in Detroit.

Really? We're that concerned about the Big Ten continuing to play bowl games in Detroit, where the league has sent a grand total of three teams during its 11-year agreement with the Motor City Bowl/Little Caesars Pizza Bowl? You can breathe easy, as the Big Ten will enter an agreement with the new Detroit Lions bowl, sources tell ESPN.com.

Let's be clear: I'm not against bowls in cold-weather cities. I have nothing against a bowl in Detroit. I like the Big Ten adding the Pinstripe Bowl in New York, mainly because of the marketing opportunities it presents at Yankee Stadium. If the league adds a tie-in with the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C., you'll get no objections from me.

But the reality is that the bigger bowl games, the ones you as fans should want to experience, will never be played in your backyard.

That's the cold truth, and the sooner all Big Ten fans accept it, the more they'll appreciate the new destinations on the league's postseason slate.