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These game monikers might bowl you over … or not

By Staff | Dec 26, 2018

As I write this, we’re still a few days away from Marshall taking on South Florida in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

By the time you read it, the game will be over and, hopefully, the Thundering Herd won. But I’d like to draw your attention back to the fact that they played in the “Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.”

The debate over whether there are too many bowl games will continue indefinitely, but whether there are four or 40, the question remains: Where are they getting these names?

I don’t have a problem with a sponsor attaching their name to a bowl. They’re paying the money; they should be able to get their name out there, even if I find the strategy somewhat dubious. I watched one of the craziest football games I’ve ever seen when Marshall beat East Carolina 64-61 in the 2001 GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala., but I can’t tell you (without Google) for certain whether GMAC provides insurance, automobile financing or anti-diarrheal medication, but I can tell you I wouldn’t be influenced to purchase any of those products based on their affiliation with a sporting event.

The big games have sponsors attached but also a name of their own. Let them call it the All-State Sugar Bowl or the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, but I can still use the shorthand moniker. Granted, the “Rose Bowl” doesn’t sound very football-ish, but it has some personality, as do the Orange and Fiesta Bowls.

Bowls named for their location make sense. The New Orleans, Boca Raton, New Mexico and Bahamas Bowls all tell you something about them.

The same applies for games honoring a particular group, like the First Responders, Armed Forces and Military Bowls. And all these games have a sponsor attached along with the basic name.

On the other hand, I have shopped at Belk many times and consider myself a satisfied customer. But the Belk Bowl just doesn’t work for me. It is played in Charlotte, N.C., the home base of the department store chain. It began life as the Continental Tire Bowl, then became the Meineke Car Care Bowl, so the switch to Belk is more of a lateral move than a step up or down.

The same goes for the Redbox, Dollar General and Camping World Bowl, the latter in which West Virginia University will (or already has, depending on when you read this) play Syracuse. Fine businesses and products, I’m sure, but hardly compelling bowl names.

Sometimes a sponsor-only bowl can work. I mean, the Cheez-It Bowl kind of makes sense. For a few years, we had the California Raisin Bowl, after the California Raisin Advisory Board purchased the naming rights to the California Bowl. But I’m pretty sure everyone just assumed it was tied to the claymation pitch band we’d all heard about through the grapevine. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl might be its spiritual successor, even if they don’t have animated spokes-tubers.

The Taxslayer.com Bowl just sounded awesome, even if it never prompted me to visit said website. Now, Taxslayer sponsors the Gator Bowl, giving an already well-named bowl an additional edge.

As for the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (formerly known as the St. Petersburg Bowl), Bad Boy Mowers is the sponsor and Gasparilla – which I incorrectly guessed referenced a machine that somehow converted your grass clippings into a rudimentary alcoholic beverage – is a reference to “Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla,” an organization “inspired by the Legend of Pirate Jose Gaspar,” according to the game’s website.

The organization is “dedicated to enriching the vitality and imagination of Tampa and its surrounding community,” it continues. “Krewe members-decked in pirate attire-regularly visit hospitals, assisted living centers and schools, engaging the community in the spirit and fun of Gasparilla events.”

So maybe the bowl title will help get their name out there. Or they could just call it the Pirate Bowl?