A Teary, Greasy Farewell To The PapaJohns.com Bowl

Pour out a tiny tub of garlic butter sauce at your next meal, and mourn 'til you join the PapaJohns.com Bowl. College football's premier postseason contest named after a pizza chain website is abruptly no more, with the company declining to pick up its contract option for 2010 and beyond in the wake of the Papa's new deal with the NFL.

The list of egregious mishandlings in the bowl's short history is a lengthy one, but the trauma of the game's inaugural year is still my favorite:

South Florida and East Carolina played before an "announced" crowd of 32,023. Perhaps half that many were actually in the stands. ESPN, in an attempt to deceive viewers into thinking the crowd was bigger than it was, asked fans to sit on one side of the stadium — the one facing the cameras.

Then came the crushing reality check to those in attendance: no pizza at concession stands! Papa John's and the vendor failed to work out a deal before kickoff, leaving fans to other options like delivery. Unfortunately, that wasn't an option either. Papa John's refused to deliver to the stadium or its grounds because of the rough and tumble Smithfield community surrounding Legion Field.

To be sure, this was never really a game that deserved better. It's difficult to say which was more ignominious, the name or the conditions at Legion Field, a venue that's hovered in what should have been the twilight of its existence for decades now. But after four straight years of abject failure to plan for and serve pizzas to a finite amount of fans within a clearly delineated block of time, it's graduation day. (A word of caution to the new official pizza of the NFL: Pro football fans skew older, and can purchase alcohol in stadiums that tend not to run out of it. They're going to love you the first time you come up short on slices, which shouldn't take long.)

So. The Little Caesars Bowl is the last pizza-based postseason contest standing. I have to say, I didn't see that coming.

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