Game of the week, 3:30 today: USC vs. Fresno State, Las Vegas Bowl (ABC)
Somewhere out there, right now, someone is telling his family, friends, or assorted internet followers that he is above watching the beginning of college football bowl season today. The games don't matter, he says; the matchups are nonsensical, and too many teams play in bowl games.
Our straw-man friend may well be right. But let's look at this a different way: college football is on television today, and who doesn't like that? USC, having just stolen Washington's coach, is pounding the final nail in the coffin of the Lane Kiffin era today, for one. For another, they're doing it against their in-state non-rivals, Fresno State, who were a single loss to San Jose State away from a perfect season and a potential bottom-drawer BCS berth. And the Bulldogs have QB David Carr, who could - you never know - be wearing Purple in 2014.
Next year, there will be a playoff for the Division I national football championship. It is the beginning of the end for bowl season; college football won't be able to resist the lure of the untold billions that await from an ever-expanding, March Madness-style tournament. The regular season will grow meaningless and bowl season will become increasingly anachronistic, and someday we'll all look back and wonder why this game was a glorified exhibition and not a first-round playoff game, with the winner going on to a spot in the Round of 16.
I think we'll miss it. I think we'll look back fondly on a time when the reward for any kind of decent season wasn't a playoff beating, but a trip someplace warm at the end of the year, to play a team that you wouldn't otherwise play, and a jump on next year's season. Either way, though, there is college football on TV today, and that's a good thing.
What else to watch
3:00 today: Colorado at Los Angeles (NHL Network): Los Angeles has a claim to be the best team in the NHL right now. Meanwhile, the Avalanche are young, fast, and skating serenely along above the Wild in the standings, always apparently teetering on the brink of a collapse but never quite tilting into disaster, either. Anyway, it's not too early to start thinking about playoff positions in the Western Conference, and this game will have obvious implications.
Noon tomorrow: Vikings at Cincinnati (FOX): This is genuinely the best game going in the NFL tomorrow, on your television. The other three games are Denver-Houston (yikes), Green Bay-Pittsburgh (nope), and Chicago-Philadelphia (yecch). Meanwhile, the Vikings are ruining their draft pick more with every passing week; can they do it again this week, against the mighty Bengals?
2:30 tomorrow: PBA Scorpion Championship (ESPN): The other week, I somehow found myself living out a fever dream, in which Terrell Owens owned a professional bowling team and in fact showed up in a patterned shirt and was attempting bowling trick shots. This is all true, except for the part where I reveal that it wasn't a dream after all, and that the whole thing was strangely hypnotic and televised on ESPN. (Anyway, if the VIkings are losing, this would do a good job of getting you an afternoon nap.)
6:30 tomorrow: Wild at New York Rangers (FSN): Do you guys remember when Nicklas Backstrom wasn't terrible and starting him in net gave the Wild a decent chance to win? (Let's hope Backstrom remembers too.)
What to read this weekend
The story of how Qatar came to host the 2022 World Cup is equal parts fascinating and infuriating. The short answer is that everything and everyone is for sale, for the right price, but it runs deeper than that - and by no means is the discussion over, given that now FIFA and Qatar are facing a fight against almost every other established soccer interest in the world.