When it comes to bowls, apply a handy beatitude to their valuation: and the first shall be last. Bowl games are much like clustered tourist attractions--the last stop is the biggie, with the outliers decreasing in value the further out you go.
In Orlando's case, this is something like Medieval Times; in the world of the bowls, it's got to be the New Orleans Bowl, which wins the Retsyn Award for truth in advertising by not even taking place in the title locale. Due to Katrina, the bowl game has been moved to scenic Lafayette, the gateway to Cajun country and home to the unfortunately monkiered University of Lousiana-Lafayette. We say unfortunately monikered since every dedicated NCAA 2006 viewer knows that as you're beating them 325-0, their team's name appears as "UL-LAF," which sounds a lot like "you'll laugh," which we usually do as we loft a HB pass for the sixteenth score of the day against them.
But the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and Arkansas State Indians will be there, along with legions of fans and doting Eagle fan Sunday Morning QB. So just in case you feel like getting on your airboat and heading down to bayou country to watch bottom of the barrel qualifiers slug it out in the cancer belt, here's our handy guide to the New Orleans Bowl.
Name: The New Orleans Bowl.
Motto: Laizzes les bon temps roulez! Yes, that's "Let the good times roll" in French. Yes, it's misspelled on the website.
Intrusive Corporate Sponsor: Surprisingly, none.
Tradition rating: Has been existence since 2001, which puts it on par with the Smoothie King down the street from you. But hey, they do tout the 2001 game as "the third highest-ranked game in the history of ESPN2." Rating: Smoothie King.
Tradition rating: Smoothie King.
Setup: Sun Belt vs. C-USA.
Location. Gotcha! Lafayette, Lousiana, which you may have noticed is NOT New Orleans.
Katrina's to blame here, but Lafayette seems to have done a bangup job running with it and promoting itself as the "Doorway to Acadiana." Seriously, we were all set up to crack out the whip on the site, but for a mid-sized Southern city this is quality work, here.
We would demand a few things if we were to visit Lafayette, though.
1. We want to do everything on an air boat. We've been entranced with these ever since we watched Gator with Burt Reynolds, and they're all over the place in Lousiana. Bonus points if we can get liquored up and spray buckshot at wildlife from the deck of one while a one-eyed Cajun guy tells us stories that always end up with a body in the swamp and lonely woman singing over a misty grave.
You think we jest? Hell to the no. We want to pull up to a strip mall in one of these.
Stranko and Orson's episode of Cribs, Lafayette edition
2. A bowl ticket and hotel receipt for longer than three nights in Lafayette should come with a voucher for a complimentary balloon angioplasty at a local hospital. Life must have been hard for settlers, since they decided to mitigate the bitter taste of living in a malarial bog by making food that would ensure a short but happy life. Cajun/creole food stands at the crossroad of traditional southern cooking and French cuisine, which means a lot of "parts" cooked in gusts of pure, tasty lard. It's all tongue-slapping good, but that sludgy sensation in your chest followed by numbness after your third bowl of gumbo is NOT indigestion--it's a stroke. Seek medical attention in between courses and you'll be fine.
Matchup quality: We'll rate these comparatively. Example: USC/Texas in the Rose is akin to Ali-Frazier. Arkansas State/Southern Miss? Barry Williams versus Danny Bonaduce in Celebrity Boxing.
What to watch for: Ummm...why does a drunk down the vanilla extract in your cabinet? Because they have to, that's why. You'll have gone weeks without a game at this point. That's weekends of the worst of adult living: you, babbling and compliant, wandering around Bed, Bath and Beyond like Will Ferrell's character in Old School. Mil Millington put it better in Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About:
I didn't know, however, that when you get a house you also need to buy monstrous amounts of pointless rubbish. Toilet-roll holders, lampshades, a trio of candlesticks of cleverly diminishing height and Mondrian-themed coasters. There's a thin line that divides the man you were from the person shuffling around Ikea with a stupid big yellow bag and dead eyes.
That person with the dead eyes and the bag? That's your sentence for the next seven and half months following the bowls. Oh, you'll watch it and hate yourself for it--you will. So will we.