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Why Bowl Games Matter

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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What we see, with bowl games, is often only the beginning.

It is a true student-athlete experience. Most of us think that all we are is a football player. Bowl games show that we are much bigger than that.
~Ben Troupe

As we look ahead to a highly-anticipated national championship game between Clemson and LSU and the postseason winds down, this time of the year, with showdowns marking the schedule, is one worth celebrating. Though the number of contests will always be a big picture talking point, the overall narrative should change; simply put, bowl games are good for college football. Even a lot of them. Even those you might not watch. In addition to giving us more of a sport we can't get enough of, bowl games are a signature part of the student-athlete experience.

More football, in a time where college football has never been more popular, is a truly welcome addition. Ahead of every long off-season, a grand finale comes with a month worth of memories to carry us through.

For those who favor a format from a generation prior, that model, one of a limited number of bowl games with thus more "esteem", doesn't fit an overall base that has evolved considerably. There are 130 FBS members, greatly proliferated national and regional media coverage and the overall infrastructure to support and sustain a larger pool. While some dismiss newer or smaller bowl games, those outings stand as important landmark opportunities for programs not always on the national stage.

College football is a business and businesses have holiday parties. The more, for the most part, the merrier. Especially given this season of giving. 

From the outside-looking-in, bowl games are simply 60 more minutes of football. The truth is that these trips, for teams and those on them, are often defining events, opportunities that make impacts and change perspective hours before any game is ever played. Bowl games are week-long adventures that, first, treat players like people. The chance to travel, see local attractions and take part in civic and volunteer events are meaningful interactions that, beyond the football field, can have a great impact. After a season's worth of sacrifice, such a result is a well-deserved reward.

Even for teams who are .500, a sticking point for detractors of broad postseason expansion, those experiences are part of what is right with college football, not the other way around.

Though a pre-game vacation of sorts, especially after a perceived mediocre season depending on a team's record, may seem largely insignificant on the surface, the moments are often anything but. Expanding the horizons of a young adult is, at least to a certain extent, one of the basic points of the college experience. A team trip to a major city, one away from the confines of campus, fit with daily community involvement, is the type of circumstance that can open eyes; maybe even change lives.

"It is a true student-athlete experience," explained former Florida All-American and NFL tight end Ben Troupe. "Most of us think that all we are is a football player. Bowl games show that we are much bigger than that."

For Troupe, a passionate advocate and volunteer who makes helping others a daily priority, some of his bowl game activities helped cultivate that passion for people. While with the Gators, his postseason work included hospital visits in Miami, New Orleans and Tampa while at the Orange, Sugar and Outback Bowls. What Troupe saw and did on his four trips was something that has very much stayed with him, even close to 20 years later.

Far away from the playing field, a seed of service was planted.

"It impacted me to the point where I knew it was going to be a part of my life, football or not," Troupe shared. "Football was my vehicle, but I realized this was going to be my life."

What we see, with bowl games, is often only the beginning.

In the game and long before it, bowl games make memories. Furthermore, they shape perspectives. There is great and far-reaching power in each experience, measurables that go well beyond any box score. Gains, despite our cheers, aren't just limited to just ten-yard conversions; these advances pay it forward. As we consume every contest, we shouldn't lose sight of all that they represent. Much like college football is much bigger than mere wins and losses, so, too, are the corresponding finishes to the year.

Across the board, bowl games matter.

"The exposure, it changes you," Troupe shared.

From the College Football Playoff to the first bowl on the schedule, the experiences that come with each game can be incredible and influential. Not always seen or shared, they deserve a spotlight all their own.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports