Many of the 5,134 people who attended the first edition of the Orange Bowl in 1935 had to literally be lured off the streets to fill the wooden bleachers, in what was then a makeshift stadium on the site of the eventual Orange Bowl facility.
Three quarters of a century after this relatively small group of fans watched Bucknell knock off Miami, a throng of 67,563 screaming, highly passionate modern day college football fans packed into modern day Sun Life Stadium to watch West Virginia man handle Clemson 70-33 in the 77th edition of the Discover Orange Bowl Classic.
And nobody had to be lured off the streets, or similarly enticed to watch what has now become one of the biggest and most anticipated games in college football.
Even though three regular bowl games and the national championship game are yet to be played, the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl marks the end of the regular BCS games and caps off a remarkable run of drama-packed postseason play.
In the 31 bowl games played thus far, 19 have been decided by a touchdown or less. Eight have enjoyed a narrow margin of victory of under three points.
Even more remarkably, three of the four cornerstone BCS contests were decided by less than a touchdown. Two were decided by three points or less, and two ended in a tie in regulation and were resolved in overtime.
So with all the talk swirling of a bowl system revolution, what does the 2011-12 postseason tell us about the inherent strength of the traditional role of bowl games?
Yes, what can we glean by taking a different angle on the bowl game and its place in the modern world of college football?
Well, in the coaches press conference held two days previous to the Orange Bowl, Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney made an excellent point about the reward element of the bowl scheme, while talking about his player’s experience on a trip to the beach.
“The beach was a blast,” Swinney stated. "You’re talking about a lot of these guys, some of them probably never put their feet in the ocean, and to see them all down there just having a big time on the beach, those are the things that go away.
People talk about doing away with the Bowls and just going to a complete playoff system and all that kind of stuff. They don’t see that. I mean, to see these guys come to a town and be embraced for a week and to see the things they experience, it’s awesome," Swinney continued.
And that’s precisely what can be learned by rolling into town for a big time bowl game, it’s more than just the contest itself. It’s significant on an important number of levels.
Of course there’s the impact of the game itself, but what about the influence on local communities, charities, the participants themselves? Or, even the value of the title itself?
Then there is the storied tradition, the pageantry, and the connection with a long standing history that connects generations of athletes and fans together through a shared experience.
The traditional bowl lends a tangible value to college football and the greater community. Though the actual number of postseason games (which has risen to an all-time high 35) is certainly up for debate, their merit is not.
Combine this somewhat under the radar significance (especially given the current climate of our culture) with a system that, at least this year, produced a series of thrilling results, and you’ve got at least a reason to pause and think things through carefully.
Though I personally have been one of the biggest proponent’s of revamping the bowl system, it’s important to balance the discussion by pointing out that there are some absolutely fabulous aspects of the bowls themselves, especially those rich in tradition.
This is not indented to be a plea for or an argument against a playoff system, but instead to give a well deserved shout out to all that’s good about the bowls that have been one of the anchor’s of college football for three quarters of a century.
It’s critical moving forward that as we discuss what needs to be done to improve college football that we don’t flush rich customs, which once gone can never be brought back.
Bowl games such as the Orange, Sugar, Rose, Cotton, Fiesta, Sun, Gator, Liberty Bowls (and a slew of others), and their associated festivities, traditions and legacies, are worth preserving.