Tonight, as most Americans decide between hand clappers and kazoos as their New Year’s Ever noise maker of choice, thousands of sports fans will be faced with a different, but no less consuming question: Celebrate New Year’s Eve as usual or stay home and watch football?
This has never been a problem before; college football conferences have never held bowl games on December 31st in past years. But that changed this year when the College Football Playoff holds its two semi-final games hours before the calendar turns over.
The reason is enough to make you want to shove a pair of 2016 glasses down the nearest conference commissioner's throat. In a word: money. In more words, it’s the desire of those who run college football to create a new day on which people sit at home and watch TV, while ensuring that all of the corporate fat cats enriching themselves off of these bowls remain happy.
Here’s a quote from College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock that shows the arrogance. "We really do think we're going to change the paradigm of New Year's Eve," he said in July. The problem with that, of course, is that people already have New Year's Eve traditions. And most people work on New Year’s Eve. The Playoff begins this year at 4pm EST, when most east coasters are still working. The first semi-final game will end before most West Coasters make it home.
What you won’t find any quotes from Hancock on is the influence of Rose Bowl in this decision. The Granddaddy of Them All is always held at 5 pm ET on New Year’s Day , and even though that would be an immeasurably better time to begin the Playoff, the power of the old boys club prevents it. Instead, the Rose Bowl will be played in the prime viewing window between two teams with no chance at the National Championship. As those in the know have said, the Playoff would have never come to pass if the Rose Bowl had to be moved off of its plum January 1st spot.
It might seem silly to get riled about the timing of football games, but for fans, this kind of thing is offensive. When a sport’s power players choose the bottom line over those who pay the money that makes up that bottom line, it's worth getting riled up over — even if the only thing at stake is missing your chance to wear a sequined top hat.