Being uncomfortable with Pinkel's "challenge" to MU fans, and recognizing possible reasons
First, it’s important to mention that we probably all understand why Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel is directly challenging his team’s fans to travel and buy tickets for the Insight Bowl.
Right or wrong, there is a perception that Mizzou doesn’t travel well, and with the current ridiculous system in place, that means MU sometimes gets passed over in bowl selection.
For Pinkel and his football team, the more fans in greater Phoenix the better. It’s good for business. If MU travels well this month, then maybe future bowls think differently. It can only help recruiting. It’s a big part of a program’s prestige.
But am I the only one who feels uncomfortable about it?
Granted, I bring biases. I’m a college football playoff guy, and as such have grown to see the bowl system as a dirty money grab more than an enhancement of the student-athlete experience. I find it ridiculous that the system often rewards projected fan spending more than on-field performance and especially ridiculous that some still see this as a football competition thing when the truth is college football is the only sport that plays its exhibition games at the end of seasons, not at the beginning.
So even while understanding why Pinkel is saying what he’s saying, I just don’t like a respected coach giving more credibility to what a lot of us see as a broken system.
But even having said all that, what I really don’t like is an insinuation that the fans who decide to stay at home during the holidays are somehow lesser fans than the ones who travel. Money is tight, the holidays are busy, and the game will be on television.
This feels a little like the time five years or so ago when Chiefs czar Carl Peterson insinuated that only season ticket holders were “real fans.”
Pinkel’s point isn’t arrogant or dismissive like Peterson’s, but it’s still a millionaire coach telling fans how to spend their money and time. That’s tenuous ground.
It’d be great if MU filled Sun Devil Stadium and everyone had a great party in the warm weather. But I hope people don’t feel guilted into going, or stretch their budgets when they don’t need to.
And I also hope the current system continues to take a beating, and we see some real change in the future. I’m still trying to figure out how much that part of it has to do with my perspective.