Bowl season always brings out the usual "there are too many bowl games" talk. I would link to this year's batch of articles, but I read them last year, and the year before, and the year before, and really not much has changed other than the details.
So let's be honest: no, these games do not matter. Yes, a lot of mediocre and even flat out bad teams make bowl games. The term "bowl team" means little more than a team won half of its game. And you can win half of your games from a Power 5 conference by going 2-6 in conference play, and then scheduling four traffic cones out of conference.
No one is going to write songs about this Music City Bowl. It's unlikely that anyone who talk about this game in hushed tones in the coming years, if it even gets talked about at all. The winner gains nothing but a trophy that no one much cares about.
That means this game is being played for nothing other than the sport of it. For all of the talk about amateurism and its place in college sports, we lose track of the fact that there is value and beauty in sport for its own sake. No, the winner does not get to advance to the next round or whatever, the winner wins nothing but a sporting competition in its own right.
The championships above all mentality robs all of us of the ability to just enjoy a college football game. And college football games are fun. Bowl games are a reminder that college football is enjoyable in its own right, and there doesn't need to be some higher purpose. We even get to play a team we usually don't get to play, and one of the iconic football programs to boot.
It's always fun to beat Notre Dame. OK, it's probably not as much fun when they were at their pompous peak in the 1980s, when they were so obnoxious that we all briefly rooted for Miami to beat them. But now that they've had a few decades of living just like everyone else, it's not like we'll be humbling their outsized egos. That's already happened, and this game won't change Notre Dame's perception of itself, no matter how it turns out.
I know that the "important" part of the bowl game is the extra practice and building for next year. It gives the coaching staff a jump start on planning for the next season and trying out younger players in bigger roles. It's the last chance to see a player's development in a somewhat meaningful game before we go into the long darkness of the offseason.
But let's take this game as a chance to stop always looking ceaselessly forward. Let's just enjoy the present for a few hours. It's your last chance to watch LSU football for eight months, so let's actually experience the game instead of project what it means to some future incarnation of the team.
However, if you must look ahead, next year's team is going to be f'n awesome. Let this serve as the appetizer for what should be a team that will contend for the SEC title. But that's unfair to this year's team. Enjoy this last bit of the 2014 season.
People all year told them how lousy they were and how they wouldn't amount to anything. Remember some writers publicly wondering how LSU gets to bowl eligibility? Remember that many fans didn't think this team was good enough to win six games, much less 8 or 9? Ho hum, now LSU is back in the top 25 and it's no big deal. Just where the team was supposed to be, right?
Give this team your full attention in the game. Don't worry about how it impacts next season. Give these players who have bled for this program the respect they deserve: cheer them on to victory. Just for victory's sake. If LSU wins this game, they get nothing but another win. Sometimes, that's enough.