Let me let you in on a little secret. The players aren't the only ones who get gifts at these bowl games. The media does as well. Why? I have no idea. It's a tradition, but it's not like we have an option of covering the game or not. It's not as if we were considering not coming, and then the Fiesta Bowl officials called and said, "hey, we'll get you a nice gift if you make the trip."
And trust me, everybody gets excited to see what the media gifts are. The Insight Bowl was about par for the course this year. They gave a leather notebook holder with the Insight Bowl insignia on it. Not bad. But the Fiesta Bowl was brilliant. This year they gave everyone Oakley sunglasses. That's big time. And they don't have some Fiesta Bowl freebie logo on it...real Oakleys.
The problem is that for the next year you're going to see these overweight, poorly dressed media members on the sidelines all wearing Oakleys. I can see Berry Tramel now in his wrinkled Oklahoman shirt and loafers with wrap-around Oakleys. Al Eschbach has a new accessory for his Corvette. Chris Lincoln in Oakleys!!! Brilliant.
Most of my media brethren haven't bought a single item of clothing in the last 20 years. They just wear the freebies they get from all the events they cover. Fleece pullovers at the Cotton Bowl. Watches at the Sugar Bowl. Hats at the Orange Bowl. Long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts at Big 12 events. They gave out shaving kits at the Final Four in Seattle. Pat Jones one year gave away garment bags at his annual golf outing. And last year the Fiesta Bowl gifted suitcases to put all the free junk in.
It's silly, but it's a HUGE deal. At the Big 12 Championship Game this year there was NO media gift. It was a scandal. It was an outrage! I guarantee you at least a dozen writers called the Big 12 office to complain.
Here's another inside secret. The "impartial" media are virtually all homers. It's great at these bowl games to see the Oklahoma media square off against the West Virginia media. Same with OSU and Indiana. Yesterday a photographer from an Oklahoma TV station (not News 9) was boxed out from getting an interview by a West Virginia writer. Name calling ensued that would make a sailor blush. Later last night it nearly came to blows. At last year's Fiesta Bowl the Boise media was actually cheering raucously in the press box during the game.
That being said. I am obviously the exception in the media herd. I'm well dressed, impartial and could care less about the gifts. I can't be bought.
Look for me tomorrow night in my Fiesta Bowl Oakleys using my Insight Bowl notepad and shoving a writer from the Indianapolis Star on the sidelines in Sundevil Stadium.