For thrilling sports action on television, it’s hard to top the sheer excitement of bowling, isn’t it?

No, not that game with 10 pins. I’m talking about the passion and pageantry of college football’s bowl season.

America’s elite, powerhouse teams are rewarded for their successful seasons by traveling to various sunny vacation spots to play each other in such memorable “classics” as the GoDaddy Bowl, the Outback Bowl, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and of course the Quick Lane Bowl (which sounds more like bowling than football).

In fact, bowl proliferation has become so ridiculous that even teams with poor seasons are playing in them. This past December’s Cure Bowl, for example, pit Georgia State (which lost half of its games this season) against San Jose State (which had a losing season). Of the more than 40 bowl games in this round, three featured teams that lost more games than they won, while nine included blah teams that won six and lost six.

There surely was a better and faster way to whittle things down for the National Championship game on January 11, when Clemson will battle Alabama for the title.


Gerry Dincher / Flickr

The real game, however, isn’t on the field, but the gaming of our tax laws by the corporate sponsors. Practically every one of these bowls has a brand-name corporation behind it that uses the hyped matchups to draw TV viewers, who are then blitzed for three hours or so with the sponsor’s ads.

Fine. But all of this hinges on a trick play — the IRS allows the sponsoring corporation to treat these self-promotion telecasts as a cost of doing business, wholly deductible from its tax bill.

The upshot is that bowl games that can’t pay for themselves through free-market ticket sales are artificially sustained by a corporate hustle that relies on a huge unwarranted government subsidy.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Public Citizen board.

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