Bowling for booty
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist

Now it's bowling time.

Now all the hard work pays off.

Now you play for pride, you play to win, you get some of that big-time exposure, satisfy yourself some boosters, and collect one of them there big, fat checks for your school's endowment.

You busted your hump every day all summer and all fall to get here. You're here to step up and get yours. You're here to bask in the bowl-game glory.

You know what else you're here for?

The gift baskets, baby. The goodies. The perks. The schwag.

Mardi Gras
That get-out-of-jail-free card from the New Orleans Bowl could come in might handy at Mardi Gras.
Most of the stuff is pretty typical -- cheeses, chocolates and nuts, t-shirts, hats and key rings. But the hosts like to throw in a little special flavor, too -- something distinctive, something that represents their game and no other.

At the New Orleans Bowl, for example, the young men of Memphis and North Texas will come away with Louis Armstrong's "Hot Fives" on CD, a three-pack of Savoy's andouille sausage and a get-out-of-jail-free card, good for use in all French Quarter-related incidents involving mixed drinks, colored beads, and young ladies in clinging t-shirts.

The hosts of the GMAC Bowl down in Mobile will offer collision damage policies on Louisville and Miami of Ohio helmets. But not liability.

In addition to tangerines, of course, the Tangerine Bowl staff has secured one John McKay-era Tampa Bay Bucaneers jersey on eBay for each North Carolina State and Kansas player. Because the jerseys are, well, tangerine. Word is, the Wolfpack baskets also come with discrete brochures detailing South Florida's mental health care options, should the team suffer another close loss.

At the Fort Worth Bowl, TCU players get oxygen masks -- the fall from grace has been dizzying.

The Las Vegas Bowl? A collector's edition DVD doubleheader of Albert Brooks' "Lost in America" and Mike Figgis' "Leaving Las Vegas." (A little scare tactic; keep the kids out of the casinos and focused on the game.)

The Hawaii Bowl offers no baskets to the home-team University of Hawaii Warriors, who will be getting lunches prepared special by their mommies. The kids from Houston, on the other hand, get fling cameras, papayas, leis, Tommy Bahama shirts, surfing lessons at the Royal Hawaiian down on Waikiki -- the whole nine yards.

The Motor City Bowl basket comes with a hand-written welcome-to-Detroit note from Paul Stanley, the author of that great Motown classic, "Detroit Rock City." (Word is, Smokey Robinson was not available and Berry Gordie would only do it if the committee would stipulate in writing that he invented the Motor City Bowl and was the rightful owner of all its proceeds.)

At the Insight Bowl, the basket is empty ... except for a plain card embossed with the words: "Look inside yourself."

The lucky players at Virginia and Pittsburgh are entitled to a rotation, free-of-charge, at the Continental Tire Bowl. If a player doesn't own a car, he'll be offered one of those peel-away-the-month calendars featuring a wholesome but titillating photograph of the Continental Tire Girl.

The Alamo Bowl ... Frank Solich bobblehead dolls for everyone.

The Houston Bowl promises free massages for the necks of Navy players and fans, cuz that B.J. Symons gonna throw a bit.

Elvis Presley
If you're lucky enough to score an invite to the Liberty Bowl, an Elvis-sighting is in your future.
Go to the Holiday Bowl, get tickets (lots of 'em) to a Chargers game.

The Silicon Valley Bowl offers players and fans a 12-page essay on why their game, though only four years old, is officially known as The Silicon Valley Classic. (There is also an appendix to the essay, in which the bowl committee lobbies ESPN to broadcast the December 30th game in black-and-white. Network representatives have said they're willing to consider a colorized broadcast of the game as a compromise.)

At the Sun Bowl? SPF 45 for the Spartans (or whoever gets the bid out of the Big 10). The glare coming off those Oregon unis is going to be a mother. And for Oregon? Just a phone call from Mr. Blackwell.

The Liberty Bowl package features Howlin' Wolf for the losers, hot fudge pie for the winners, and an Elvis sighting for everyone.

At the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl Presented by Bridgestone, players are treated to a free continental breakfast, pillow mints, terry-cloth robes, pay-per-view adult films, and a set of radials.

At the Independence Bowl, they take a kind of rugged individualism approach to things. Everyone fends for their own schwag. No freebies.

In case you hadn't heard, you should know there's a thing called the San Francisco Bowl, which will be played on New Year's Eve. You should also know that it's not, as we had first assumed, a combination of noodles, sprouts, chicken and broth best eaten with chopsticks, but a football game at Pac Bell Park to be played between the Colorado State Rams and the Eagles of Boston College. Whether the Rams and Eagles know there's a game on is anyone's guess. They're coming out for the noodles, and for the chance to ring in the New Year kissing a California girl.

You want to play in the Outback Bowl because it's a New Year's Day game and that spells big-time. You also want to play because there's a free set of steak knives in the deal. And that spells the sweet juices of victory dribbling down your chin.

The folks at the Gator Bowl are big into history. So, as you might expect, all invited guests will receive Woody Hayes rock-em-sock-em action figures.

And by the way, if Tracy McGrady rings your bell to hand-deliver your Capital One Bowl gift basket and begs you to take him with you when you leave Orlando, don't open the door.

Nick Lachey & Jessica Simpson
Who wouldn't want to go to the Orange Bowl? For Jessica ... not so much for Nick.
Rose Bowl: Aluminum folding chairs and a good spot on the parade route (depending on availability). But modern-day players are advised to remember the fate of Brown University and its star, Fritz Pollard, who were shut out by Washington State in 1914 after attending the parade before the game.

Orange Bowl: You get Jessica Simpson (and Nick Lachey ... like you care) on stage at a pre-game beach bash; and on the menu, you get your choice of buffalo wings or tuna-salad sandwiches.

For the Cotton Bowl ... well, to be honest, it's more of a cotton-poly blend, actually. It wears longer than straight cotton, is the thing. And you'll never know the difference once you're wearing it because it feels like cotton, and they've cut way down on the chafing. Really, they have.

Once upon a time they played the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Atlanta's Grant Field. Outdoors. The first five games, between 1968 and 1973, saw four driving rainstorms and one near-blizzard. That's football. You want a gift? Gifts are for sissies. Play some football, dammit.

Out Tempe way for the Fiesta Bowl, you're either going to have LSU's Tigers playing mad and hungry because they were denied a shot at Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, or you're going to have the Trojans from USC playing mad and hungry because LSU leap-frogged them and denied them a shot at Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Either way, the opponent (probably Florida State) gets a hug.

In the Humanitarian Bowl, it's not so much about what you get. It's about what you give, you know what we're saying?

And finally, there's the big one, the Sugar Bowl, where they thought about free cell phones but decided instead to offer up a little thing called a shot at immortality.

Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.



Eric Neel Archive

Neel: Words to taunt by

Neel: There's no team in MVP

Campus Tailgate Tour: Ohio State

Neel: The duel

Neel: More than money

Neel: 20 reasons to watch

Neel: Knuckles vs. kisses

Neel: C'mon, confess

Neel: Cubbyholed

Neel: East coast envy

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