(WRITER'S NOTE: While finishing up a little holiday va-ca, here is a redux of a column I wrote awhile back that is pertinent considering El Paso's bowl season is upon us once again. This one's for the Brut Sun Bowl volunteers. Thanks...DRK)
The plastic cups and popcorn bags will rustle in the breeze that always winds up chasing its tail in the Sun Bowl, a swirling wind stirring discarded programs that just a few hours earlier were worth the space created in somebody’s wallet or purse.
America will move on to more important bowl games this next week and leave the Brut Sun Bowl behind. But while it lasted, El Paso’s septuagenarian event showed, once again, that the old fella still throws one heckuva party, even if it is considered a lesser light in the bowl universe.
Importance? That is relative.
As any good Sun Bowl Association volunteer knows, you get out what you put in. And – though they’ll probably not see reimbursement money for the credit card maxed out by bar tabs, late-night pizza deliveries and the drugstore’s entire rack of Chaser anti-hangover pills – they know because they show how important the Sun Bowl game is to El Paso.
The volunteers are those behind-the-scenes people who get visitors to pluck the word “hospitable” from their hats when describing the Sun City’s annual New Year’s Eve-or-thereabouts party.
This is important in an age when many in the media and elsewhere take a look at the NCAA’s slate of 32 bowl games and ask “Why?”
Well, says El Paso, why not? Why should anyone need an excuse to throw a party everyone enjoys?
It says here that if lightning strikes the NCAA President’s and Athletic Director’s Committees today and America gets a Division 1A playoff tomorrow, the Sun Bowl will still live. Why? Because El Paso has fun with its bowl game. Visitors to the city feel that, and they like it.
Sun Bowl Association members should take a deep bow.
Hearing about UTEP’s Humanitarian Bowl experience in 2000 puts it in perspective. The words “bowl organizer” were mutually exclusive to game officials in Boise, ID. The Miners were left to organize their own activities, which, in beautiful Boise meant finding a couple of movies after practice.
El Pasoans may roll their eyes upon seeing news footage of yet another trip to the local boot factory or the bloodless bullfights in Cd. Juárez, but it sure beats a brisk Boise mall-walk and snowball fights in the hotel parking lot.
What is not mentioned come Sun Bowl week is the group of hundreds of locals who burn their vacation time and give up family Christmases to chaperone players and coaches and media hacks anywhere and everywhere else in the Borderland that wouldn’t make headlines – sometimes avoiding the headlines.
More than one visitor has been bailed out of a south-of-the-border fix by bowl volunteers and was amazed to discover how well Ben Franklin speaks Spanish.
The volunteers do it because they love their city, they love the game and they love a good fiesta. Which is why El Paso has the Sun Bowl in the first place.
Importance? As long as El Pasoans believe the game is important, everyone else can think what they want.
Besides, the next shipment of Chaser is due soon. Now, that’s important.