Um, yeah, the bowl season is still meaningless

celebrity tvI’ve read several columns from writers bemoaning the notion that the college football bowl season meaningless, because, look at this bowl game, and that one, and then, you know, this other one.

You mean to say, these games are all meaningless?

No, the games aren’t meaningless.

The fact that they’re bowl games, though: yeah, meaningless.

The team I have covered for more than 20 years, for instance, UVA. Big win in Charlotte over South Carolina.

Actually, understating it there. Huge win, 28-0, dominant win, against a quality opponent, an SEC opponent.

Monstrous.

The fact that the game is called the Belk Bowl: whatevs.

Don’t get me wrong. The bowl folks were super nice.

The PR guy, best sports PR guy I’ve dealt with since Rich Murray.

They don’t make many like Rich Murray. Didn’t realize how good we had it, having Rich Murray, until he retired.

I digress.

Nice folks at the Belk Bowl.

Charlotte, great city. I love Uptown.

The stadium had swaths of empty seats, most on the UVA side.

The number of people watching on TV: meh.

I probably shouldn’t dismiss is that much. The game drew 2.55 million viewers, ranking it 19th among the 40 bowl games (including the two semifinal playoff games) played to this point.

That’s about what Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow do weeknights, what WWE gets for Raw and Smackdown, and those shows make money, presumably.

But, what about those playoff games? What did they draw?

Clemson-Notre Dame, a 30-3 snoozer that began at 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday, did 16.8 million. Alabama-Oklahoma, which was 28-0 early in the second quarter, did 19.1 million.

Which, for both, is better than what NBC does on Sunday night with the NFL on very good weeks, and double what ABC did for the NBA in prime time on Christmas night, the biggest night of the year outside of the finals for the Association.

I’ve been big for years behind the notion that college football will eventually figure out that adding to its playoff and doing away with the bowls will be better for everybody concerned.

There is talk now about going from four to eight, which is fine, but ultimately, a 16-team playoff that gives automatic bids to all 10 FBS conference champs is where we will end up.

The floor for those games is a sellout live crowd and the 16.8 million at home watching on TV that we got for Clemson-Notre Dame, and we get that, in a 16-team tournament, repeated 15 times.

Just from the TV-viewer perspective, you’re talking, at a minimum, 250 million people watching even before you get to the championship game.

Back-of-the-envelope math for viewership of our 2018 bowls and playoff semifinals has viewership at around 150 million, with the championship game still to come.

More than twice as many games, and about 60 percent of the audience.

The reason for this: run-of-the-mill bowl games mean something, from a fan perspective, only to the fans of the teams involved.

Playoff games, though, you don’t have to be a fan of Clemson or Alabama to want to see how their games turn out.

Same as you don’t only watch the Super Bowl if you’re a New England fan, a Philadelphia fan, a New Orleans fan.

Games leading to a championship decided on the field all carry extra meaning.

UVA’s win over South Carolina: it meant a lot to the team, which hadn’t finished a season with a win since 2005, hadn’t finished with eight wins since 2011, hadn’t beaten an SEC team since 2002.

A nice sendoff for a team that looks to be a favorite in the ACC Coastal Division in 2019, building on a win over a quality opponent into the spring, into summer conditioning, then fall camp.

But to the millions, and millions, who aren’t UVA football fans: it’s wallpaper.

As were roughly 35 other games played over the past three weeks.

If you didn’t have anything else going on, if you were all caught up on your binge-watching, for instance, if your basketball team was on exam break, you’d flip a game on, but you weren’t emotionally invested, certainly not to the level that people watching Hannity or Maddow are emotionally invested.

And those shows, as we all know, are meaningless.

I mean, politics slop? Seriously?

And if those shows are meaningless, then, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but …

Column by Chris Graham

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is now available at a special pre-sale discounted price of $20. The book is expected to ship by June 10, 2019, and will retail for $25.
Pre-order for $20: click here.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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