Saturday, December 26, 2009
Two Cheers for New Year's
(Above: Ernie Davis)
Happy New Year. It's bound to be better than last year,
and I have the proof: Chinese fortune cookies.
Last year at this time, I reported that the cookies from two of my favorite Chinese restaurants - Hunan Villa in Pinole and Renee's Place in Albany - were striking a cautionary tone, with fortunes like "Don't make any large purchases right now" and "A penny saved is a penny earned."
Well, last week I loaded up on Chinese food again, and this time the fortunes read, "A promising business opportunity awaits you" and "You will have gold pieces by the bushel."
Meanwhile, I don't how you celebrate New Year's Eve, but I plan to observe the occasion the same way I do every year: by being in bed fast asleep long before the stroke of midnight.
I loathe New Year's Eve. It's my least favorite holiday. The fact that it comes only a week after my favorite holiday, Christmas, makes it even worse.
Christmas is warm and fuzzy. New Year's Eve is cold and glitzy. Christmas is about giving gifts and making little children happy. New Year's Eve is about drinking and false bonhomie.
New Year's Day is getting more generic, too. When I was growing up in the 1950s I eagerly looked forward to the bowl games, and there were only four: Rose, Cotton, Sugar and Orange. They were all played on Jan. 1, and they featured the best teams in the nation.
Now there are more than 40 bowls, stretching over more than two weeks, and they're just generic infomercials for their sponsors. Where is the tradition behind the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Papajohns.com Bowl or the Chick-fil-A Bowl?
Even the traditional bowls have sold their souls. Now it's AT&T Cotton Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Allstate Sugar Bowl, FedEx Orange Bowl and "The Rose Bowl Presented by CTI."
And instead of featuring the very best teams, any school with a winning record gets to go to a bowl, and sometimes you don't even need that. Marshall, which was only 6-6, played in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl last Saturday. Some may call that parity; I call it mediocrity.
The best part of the old bowl games is that they were miniature morality plays. This was at the height of the Civil Rights movement, and three of the four bowls - Cotton, Sugar and Orange - were played in the South. The games regularly pitted an all-white southern team against an integrated team from the North, and both sides saw the contest as a referendum on segregation.
More often than not, the Southern players would embarrass themselves by shouting racial taunts and deliberately trying to injure the African American players. And more often than not, the Northern kids responded by whupping their butts.
That's what happened in the 1961 Cotton Bowl, when Syracuse's Ernie Davis ran wild against Texas, stomping the Longhorns 23-12. But Syracuse never picked up its trophy at the awards banquet because Davis and the other African American players weren't allowed in the segregated country club where it was being held, and their teammates refused to go without them.
And in all the years since, I'll bet not one of them has even for a moment regretted missing that banquet.