Cheez-IT: “We expect a lot from our cheese.”
The definition of “extraordinary” usually pertains to something special or terrific.
But consider the word by its literal compound construction. And by that definition, by every measure and mark, Wednesday night’s Cheez-IT Bowl in Phoenix qualifies as extra-ordinary.
Texas Christian’s 10-7 overtime win over Cal was so bad it was epic. The bowl crossed the magical threshold of mediocrity into lore. It became “cheesy.”
Think of your favorite worst-best movie of all time. Mine remains 1985’s horrible-great “Fever Pitch,” written and directed by Richard Brooks, who also made “Blackboard Jungle” and “In Cold Blood.”
Fever Pitch still rates only 14% on Rotten Tomatoes but, as young sportswriters, we wore out the DVD starring Steve Taggart (Ryan O’Neal) as a sportswriter corrupted by gambling: “Everybody’s doing it!”
Think of the 1962 New York Mets. Or the Tampa Bay Bucs coached by John McKay.
Asked once about his Tampa team’s execution after another loss, McKay quipped “I’m in favor of it.”
Casey Stengel was the perfect language-mangled manager for the hapless Mets of 1962, who finished 40-120 and 60 1\2 games behind the San Francisco Giants.
“Can’t anyone here play this game?” became Casey’s famous refrain.
It takes a harmonic set of circumstances, characters and ingredients to make a snack-cracker special.
Thank the corporate gods for this year’s sponsorship gift-exchange that turned “Cactus Bowl” into Cheez-IT.
That added lactose component played right into social media’s orange, gooey twitter fingers. The same Cal vs. TCU game in the Cactus Bowl would not have been as funny; it would have lacked Cheez-ITs valuable back-of-box nutritional information: “Wheat flour, vegetable oil, sharp cheddar cheese, salt and spices.”
Post-game footage of TCU hoisting a chalice containing actual snack bits was Plan B From Outer Space perfect and provided another reason why college football remains quirky-superior to the NFL.
Cheez-IT satisfied all our salty needs and the MVP should have been Kellogg’s.
Because, as you know, what we really want as a society is to be entertained.
Mediocrity equals boredom and boredom is bad.
We salute feats of tremendous skill, nerve and courage, but human failure, mixed with slapstick, also fills a very important societal void. The suffering of others makes us feel a little better about ourselves and is the reason Jerry Springer is rich.
Nothing boosts our serotonin levels like an internet meme of a skateboarder cracking his nuts on the sidewalk rails of a local public library.
Cheez-IT activated all of our craven, joystick sensors. It was a comedy of errors performed by two bowl-eligible teams with quality players and coaches.
Hey, I could do that!
The game featured nine interceptions by two programs that got extra practice days to prepare. Cal played two quarterbacks named Chase in a stadium called Chase Field.
Grayson Muehlstein, the winning TCU quarterback, completed 7 of 20 passes for 27 yards, with four interceptions.
The game-winning field was set up on a Cal interception in the first overtime that was nearly returned for a game-winning touchdown.
On that play, Mark Cohen, TCU’s longtime sports information director, overcome by the excitement, got plowed over by an official on the sideline and received a 15-yard penalty.
That’s how a bad bowl game becomes memorable.
Who doesn’t laugh when someone slips on a side judge?
The moral here, boys and girls, is don’t be ordinary.
If you’re going to be great, be Alabama, but if you’re going to be crummy, be Rutgers.
The “Toilet Bowl” slogged long and hard to earn its reputation as the worst game in college football history. That scoreless tie in 1983, between Oregon and Oregon State, set the benchmark; two rivals sloshing in the Eugene mud to the tune of 11 total turnovers and four missed field goals.
I’ve covered a lot of epic games in my career. A year after the Toilet Bowl, I stood in the end zone when BC quarterback Doug Flutie threw his game-winning pass to beat Miami at the Orange Bowl.
Yet, as much as I remember that game, and Joe Montana’s pass to John Taylor to win a Super Bowl, I also covered Prairie View football's NCAA-record 51st straight loss, at the Cotton Bowl, on Oct. 1, 1995.
My editors knew our readers liked stories on losers, too. Grambling pummeled the poor Prairie dogs, 64-0, ending the game with a boot-kick touchdown and two-point conversion.
"It's nothing to be proud of," PV receiver Greg Bell said after the game. Prairie View went on to lose 80-straight games...they sucked!
I also remember April 4, 2011. That was the night Connecticut defeated Butler, in Houston, to win the NCAA basketball title.
It was one of the horrific-terrific great games of all time. Neither team could locate the basket on a postage-stamp court located in a cavernous football stadium.
I dutifully reported court side, jaw agape, transfixed, in a numb-like trance. UConn, the winning team, went 19 of 55 from the field, which was sniper-like marksmanship compared to Butler’s 12 for 64.
So, thank you, Cheez-IT for pushing our carnival, dunk-tank pleasure button.
Were we not entertained?