Bowling for Dollars

Bowling for Dollars

by Tim & N.C. Weil

Eagle Bank Bowl - Bowling for Dollars by Tim & N.C. Weil - Stories and Songs

for the love of the game

T for Temple U
T for Temple U
U-ni-versity!
Fight, fight, fight!
For the Cherry and the White.
For the Cherry and the White,
We’ll fight, fight, fight!
We are the Mighty Bruins,
the best team in the West.
We’re marching on to Vic-tor-y
to conquer all the rest.
We are the Mighty Bruins,
triumphant evermore
and you can hear
from far and near,
the Mighty Bruin roar.
U-C-L-A Fight, Fight, Fight!

A Sporting Enigma

“How about this? How about it?”

Marigold was scrambling the morning breakfast while Ernesto burnt the toast. Fred’s coffee mug jiggled in his hands as he excitedly read the morning sports wire headline.

“This is it. We’ve made it. It says right here that Ernesto’s college, Temple University, will be battling Grandpa’s UCLA Bruins, right here in DC at the ‘The Eagle Bank Bowl’ (whatever the hell that is)!

“We’ve got to go. It’s going to be ‘The Big Game’.”

RFK Stadium - Bowling for Dollars by Tim & N.C. Weil - Stories and Songs

Ernesto tossed the charred toast into the compost and reloaded the bread incinerator, thinking what a cold place in December RFK stadium can be. He considered the few reasons any evolved person would risk the prevalent threat of freezing to death outside –

  1. A loved one is stranded on a frigid evening and must be saved before nightfall.
  2. Through years of training, a seasoned athlete has earned the right to compete in the Winter Olympics (held at the South Pole).
  3. It is the 1800s and someone they vaguely know, told another person that they know that someone they definitely know, might have found gold in them thar hills of the Yukon.

In his mind, watching the Temple Owls in a meaningless college bowl game did not quite make the list.

Marigold chimed in. “Aren’t those tickets expensive? Can we afford to go?”

Fred read on –

“It says here, in the paper, that UCLA will be making its eighth bowl appearance in 10 years and the game is a price-is-right experience. UCLA failed to earn one of the six bowl spots affiliated with the Pacific 10 Conference but was able to accept an invitation to the Eagle Bank Bowl because the game was a break-even proposition financially. In 2001, the Bruins declined a bowl appearance because of the cost. When they were invited to the 2001 Humanitarian Bowl, organizers asked the school to commit to a ‘sponsorship’ of at least $300,000. While Bowl Championship Series games offer huge paydays, some lower-tier games now require schools to buy as many as 10,000 tickets to the game to participate.”

“Can we bear to miss it?” Fred demanded.

“This is our big opportunity to see a bowl game,” Marigold acquiesced.

“Well, when you put it that way… Resistance is futile.”

Some people might wonder about the brilliance of scheduling a winter, post-season game in Washington DC, which, while not New England, is pretty far from the Sunny South. This ‘Eagle Bowl’ looks to be a ten-year contract in the concrete palace called RFK stadium. Might as well hold it in Siberia. The turf will be like tundra. But a bowl game is a Bowl Game. They won’t have hotel or airfare costs. This is their chance. Tickets are purchased. Let the hype begin.

Team Spirit

In the economics of collegiate sports, Temple football had been in danger of being banned from post-season play during the previous season. After two miserable years, a third consecutive low NCAA rating for the Temple football team would ban them from bowl competitions. Back in 2001, Temple was forced out of the league due to poor attendance averages, non-competiveness and a lack of commitment to the football program from university officials. This year was different. The Owls were playing competitive football and the Eagle Bank Bowl was their first bowl game in 30 years. The last time the Owls played for post-season glory, Jimmy Carter was president and Babe by Styx was at the top of the charts.

For UCLA, it was all about Westwood pride. The Bruins team had played in 35 bowl games in its history, compiling a record of 16-18-1. After their 4-8 record last year, UCLA’s coach made appearing in a bowl game a primary goal.

“I understand there is bean counting that has to take place,” Coach said, “but I also understand that there will be more beans the better we do. Of course, any momentum the Bruins might gain would be killed by a loss to a Temple program making its first post-season game in 30 years.”

For Temple University’s highly funded but largely unsuccessful football franchise, this game was indeed the Big One. This being their third bowl appearance in 110 seasons and, coming off the disgrace of being ineligible earlier in the decade, the Temple athletics department invested in a 104-page glossy commemorative post-season guide, to celebrate their new-found football accolades. It didn’t hurt that they’d be facing an opponent whose gridiron feats were the stuff of legend. Defeating them would only heap greater glory upon the Owls. Sportscasters would take note of this game, thanks to the Bruins, a team to follow and by following them, would surely remark on the worthiness of this contest.

Cast off the chains of moderation! Greatness demands excess. While others toil abjectly, football patriots take to the stadium to win honor; to wreathe their school in victory; to achieve greatness in the face of such mundane obstacles as an icy field, numb fingers, a bitter wind circling the concrete colosseum. Gridiron gladiators gather to face lions – no, Bruins – and prove their hardiness, their unbesmirched character, their excellence deserving of the gods’ laurels. No falterers need apply. The years gone by, with their dismal statistics, mean nothing today. This game, this frigid afternoon, offers an eternity in glory. Temple’s players need only the fortitude to grasp it, to hold their fortune proudly before them as a standard in a parade.

“Shower us with cheers! We are your team today, here to win!”

Pre-Game Show (the Patriot Game)

To kick things off, Fred and Ernesto attend the tailgate party at the DC Armory. The fandamonium is awesome – bad food, thin beer, lots of preppy spirit and Pom-Pom girls kicking to the Temple fight song. Ahead of the game, the guys wander over to the Siberia Stadium, a real freezing bunker. The crowd is sparse, so far but wait! Overhead, a plane appears.

Announcer: “Ladies and gentleman, as part of our benefit today for returning veterans, the Suffering Soldiers organization welcomes the crack team of Army Rangers, now parasailing onto the field. Put your hands together to welcome Staff Sergeant Ray Joynes and his precision jump team, as they land their chutes here in the middle of the stadium.”

Huge flags are unfurled and one soldier is lionized for his courage as a parachutist with prosthetic legs.

“Now turn your attention to the Jumbotron, where General Invadus welcomes these brave rangers who have re-enlisted for another tour of duty.”

Click.

“And in the middle of the playing field, we have the US Coast Guard silent drill team, performing close order rifle manoeuvers – with bayonets! Thank you, Drill Team! Now, please remove your hats for our national anthem, performed for us by US Air Force Major D.C. Washington.”

Ross Perot - Bowling for Dollars by Tim & N.C. Weil - Stories and SongsAt last, here to get the ball rolling (so to speak), H. Ross Perot, one-time presidential candidate and patriotic business mogul, pontificates about the greatness of football: the pride they should feel at being chosen to stab their cleats into this august (frozen) turf; their mighty collision poised to take its place in the history of sport. Mr. Perot supervises the toss of the coin. Temple has won the toss. Let the game begin!

Now Let Us Play

All is in readiness as Marigold arrives from the Metro, having come across town after work. She missed the Armory pre-game celebration and tailgate party, so she is not yet fortified against the cold with the warmth of alcohol. She makes her way to join her men at their designated seats, out under the slaty December skies, the sun already too low to provide a lightbulb’s warmth in this vast cold mausoleum, where so many sporting dreams have come to naught.

This is the venue where the Washington Senators won lasting ridicule as ‘First in War, First in Peace, and Last in the American League.’ This is where the Washington Redskins franchise struggled before they moved to a new, enormous football palace. This is not a stadium echoing with greatness.

This is, however, a stadium bowing to the gods of expedience: no heavy lift of huge ticket sales; no donation requirements to a charity and a pair of teams willing to play here for the sake of being in any bowl game, no matter how small, in a contest however poorly-matched, under field conditions no athlete could enjoy. Big Games are where you find them and, if you’re here, it’s because attending a bowl game is a notable experience – everyone should be so lucky!

Thanks to the twin obstacles of distance and climate, many UCLA alumni stay home and stay warm. Philadelphia’s not far and Temple denizens are a hardy bunch, accustomed to wintry weather, daunting odds, the whole underdog mystique. Rocky Balboa is the city’s patron saint – a has-been who works hard, takes his lumps, gets knocked down but comes back to win another day. Maybe Rocky will guide the Owls today.

Marigold has brought an army blanket under which, the trio huddle – cold before the game is even underway. She declines a beer, which would make her hands colder than they already are despite her gloves. Too bad they don’t sell whisky – not ordinarily a drinker, she would appreciate the heat of a high-octane beverage today.

The only way to stay warm is to cheer energetically at every opportunity – pass the ball, catch the ball – yay! Make two yards rushing – double yay! Win a first down – whoopee! A touchdown produces an ecstatic outpouring from frozen fans – ‘Hooray for the Owls! Go Temple Go!’

And go they do – the first half is Temple’s. Those UCLA players don’t typically endure such harsh conditions. The cold must be much more unpleasant for them than for the Owls, who must often face bad weather.

The half-time show is a chance to get up and hustle around the concourse – not that once-warm French fries have any appeal but moving circulates the blood and thaws the fingers and toes. A visit to the restroom proves that the building has no hot water. At least the toilets are clean and supplies are adequate – one dare not complain. Someday, these hastily-dried hands will thaw.

An investment in hot chocolate is mandatory and half the fans are in the concession stand line. Marigold is fortunate to purchase two frothy cups before the treat is gone – and though the beverages are tepid, they are much warmer than their surroundings – yes, the fans will certainly both drink and enjoy them (while cuddling them between their hands as one might nurse the beginnings of a fire, encouraging the infant flame in hopes of its flourishing into actual warmth).

Fred and Ernesto have done their own concession line gauntlet and the trio reconvene at their seats, fortified with icy cocoa, cold dogs, crystalized ketchup and frozen buns. They look around at their fellow fans – groups everywhere are outfitted in team jerseys, hats, face paint and mustard stains, sporting beer and burgers, either insensitive to 23-degree weather or too drunk to care. Fred and company resettle on their frigid metal slabs, remembering fondly, summer days in ball parks, when presence was pleasant. Bodily warmth soaks away into seats exposed to Washington December, untouched by the ghost of low-winter sun.

Temple’s marching band heads back to the stands, having performed as spirited a half-time show as musicians who must put their warm lips against brass mouthpieces and bare fingers on brass valves could possibly offer. Teams return to the field to a roar from the crowd, and the contest is resumed.

Marching band - Bowling for Dollars by Tim & N.C. Weil - Stories and Songs

But the second half is UCLA’s game. Temple can’t keep possession of the ball – unable to make a first down, let alone a touchdown – and UCLA starts to play like the well-oiled, we’ve-played-in-the-Rose-Bowl team that they are. The field is an ice rink and the Bruins rack up points by not changing directions in the middle of a play, while the Owls’ offense sitting on the bench don’t look like they’re going to see enough action to stay thawed. On the slippery field, UCLA running backs ride the frozen turf for extra yards, while Temple tackles lose their footing.

UCLA’s supporters now look warm – scoring is its own source of heat – and the cold penetrates further into Temple fans’ butts, damping their enthusiasm. The tide has turned, Temple’s first-half advantage is gone and everyone can see victory in the Bruins’ eyes. Temple mascot, Hoo T Owl, cavorts along the sidelines to no avail – fans’ thoughts turn inward now, to their frozen body parts. They have no energy to spare for their team. Not so by the Bruins’ bench. Joe Bruin’s got the mojo and his team keeps skating for yardage across the ice rink of the RFK field.

Fred, Marigold and Ernesto have abandoned the game in their hearts but their butts stay put – they paid to see a bowl game; it’s highly unlikely they ever will again and they’re going to, gosh-darn-it, see the whole thing, down to the endless final minute.

So goes another sporting contest: one team lauded in the papers and the nightly news while the other team, snubbed in its rare post-season opportunity, goes home defeated, greatness proving once again out of reach. And fans everywhere lament their foolish optimism, acknowledging that their team lost, not because of playing conditions, bad calls or injuries but, because they just weren’t good enough.

The Morning After (the Big Game)

“How about this? How about it?”

Marigold was scrambling the morning breakfast while Ernesto burnt the toast. Fred’s coffee mug jiggled in his hands as he excitedly read the morning sports wire headline.

“This is it. Tonight, Nebraska is meeting Arizona in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. It’s the Really Big Game!”

“San Diego in December sounds nice,” Marigold remarked “and Nebraska’s a perennial contender – they’ll crush Arizona. Maybe it’s on TV.”

Copyright © 2016 Tim and N.C. Weil – Security Feeds LLC

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