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Dr. Saturday

Justifying today’s bowls: Wake up the echoes in the Champs Sports Bowl. Then wake up the crowd.

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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Bowls: There are a lot of them. Most of which seem to have been created solely to bilk taxpayer-funded universities for the sake of upselling a few hotel rooms. As a public service, we're cutting through the fat in search of a few good reasons — or any reason — for these spectacles to exist. Today: Scanning the post-Christmas fare in the Champs Sports and Alamo Bowls.

LOCALE: Remember that place, named for that thing?

The Alamodome ("America's Favorite Square Dome") opened in 1993 with vague hopes of luring an NFL franchise to the Mission City, and it's done just about everything but that: Besides the Alamo Bowl, the dome's regular tenants have included the San Antonio Spurs, an ill-fated CFL franchise, three Big 12 championship games, the annual Texas Football Classic to kick off the high school season and the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl for some of the nation's top recruits.

The closest it's gotten to the NFL, though, is six preseason games and a three-game stint as emergency home to the New Orleans Saints after Hurricane Katrina, followed by a failed campaign to lure the franchise — owned by San Antonio mainstay Tom Benson — to the city. With the dome's 19th birthday approaching, that ship has pretty much sailed.

TRADITION: You remember the Champs Sports Bowl from such bowls as...
No bowl anywhere has survived as many makeovers in as short a period of time as the game currently operating under the "Champs Sports" banner — in fact, it's debatable whether the Champs Sports Bowl even qualifies as the same entity that was forged as the Blockbuster Bowl at all. In 1990, Blockbuster bought into and renamed the proposed "Sunshine Classic" before the first game, thereby establishing the modern precedent for sponsor-only bowl titles while also consigning this particular game to life as an ever-evolving billboard — every time the bowl changes sponsors, it changes names. So far, it's changed sponsors five times in 20 years.

In fact, "Blockbuster Bowl" itself was not so bad. But when the game was crassly rechristened as the "Carquest Bowl" in 1994, the floodgates were opened. It went on to suffer through stints as the MicronPC Bowl in 1998 and the Bowl in 2000 (see, one is the doomed PC company, the other is the website of the doomed PC company) before being moved from Miami to Orlando in 2001 and renamed, respectably, the Tangerine Bowl. At which point — under a different sponsor with a different name and a new location — it becomes unclear that we're actually referring to the same game. As always, however, Wikipedia rules on these matters, and the game's own website also claims the continuity.

Visit Florida operated the Tangerine Bowl (sponsored by Mazda) for three years, until giving way in 2004 to Champs Sports, which ditched the "Tangerine" business and returned the bowl to its unabashedly corporate roots. It's a feel-good story, really.{YSP:MORE}

SWAG: The key word here is "Buy."

Both bowls give away $400 worth of goodies at Best Buy — via shopping spree for the Champs Sports Bowl, via gift card for the Alamo — a prospect that excited Florida State cornerback Avis Commack so much he couldn't wait to get a head start: Commack was charged with felony theft this month after allegedly lifting an iPad from a fellow student's backpack.

For the record, Best Buy sells iPads starting at about $400.

SPONSORS, PARADES AND OTHER AMBIANCE: Catlab gets pumped for the Champs Sports Bowl.

There are a thousand previews of tonight's showdown between unranked Notre Dame and barely ranked Florida State, and all of them combined fail to match the insight in this 43-second acid trip from the geniuses at Catlab, who have boiled down the matchup according to its most essential elements: Burt Reynolds, demented leprechauns, coeds shotgunning beer, Regis Philbin pumping iron, Rudy sprinting through the bowels of Notre Dame Stadium and — most importantly — noted Orlando native/FSU alum Scott Stapp squaring off against Touchdown Jesus.

The existence of this video + Joe Tessitore in the booth + a Twitter feed run by an actual human instead of a P.R. drone = automatic FIVE-STAR AMBIANCE for the Champs Sports Bowl. I hope the rest of you were taking notes.

THIS YEAR'S MATCHUP: Seriously, Notre Dame got totally robbed in 1993.

Fighting Irish fans are still a little touchy over the "Game of the Century" in South Bend — No. 1 Florida State at No. 2 Notre Dame, both undefeated, mythical national championship on the line — and in this case they have a right to be: They won the game, after all, on a last-minute deflection in the end zone that preserved a - victory and lifted them to No. 1 in the polls. That distinction lasted exactly one week, until Boston College ended the Irish's perfect season on a -yard field goal on the last snap of the game.

Where Florida State lost the battle, it eventually won the war: Notre Dame recovered from the upset to win the rest of its games, but never recovered in the polls, finishing No. 2 behind the same Seminoles it defeated head-to-head following FSU's narrow escape against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Aren't you glad the BCS is here to ensure that kind of thing will never happen again?

STAR POWER: No shame in Baylor's Alamo game.
Robert Griffin III's presence in the Alamo Bowl marks the first December bowl appearance by a Heisman Trophy winner since Ty Detmer led BYU into the 1990 Holiday Bowl, which may say more about the politics of the award — and how thoroughly Griffin's win defied those politics — than it does about the guys who have won it.

In fact, "star player for a championship team" is one of the unwritten criteria for the honor. Before Griffin, nine of the eleven previous Heisman winners since 2000 played in the BCS Championship Game the following January. (The two exceptions: USC's Carson Palmer in 2002 and Florida's Tim Tebow in 2007, the latter starring on a team that had won the BCS title the previous season and would win it again the following season.) Seven of those nine winners were quarterbacks. (The two exceptions: USC running back/return man Reggie Bush in 2005 and Alabama running back Mark Ingram in 2009, both of whom led top-ranked teams in the championship game.) In eight of those eleven seasons, the championship game featured both the Heisman winner and another finalist on the opposite sideline who finished second or third in the voting.

Then again, previous Alamo Bowl quarterbacks have included Drew Brees, Michael Bishop, Eric Crouch, Brad Banks, Colt McCoy and Chase Daniel — not to mention a young Charles Woodson in 1995 — all of whom either had been or would go on to New York as Heisman finalists. Not bad company.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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