Steve Chapman

He also called it "sissy ball," which is undoubtedly one of the milder terms the legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes would have used. Hayes, who harbored a deep distrust of the forward pass, approvingly described football as a "crunching, frontal assault of muscle against muscle, bone upon bone, will against will." Those words do not conjure up the spread offense, which deploys up to five receivers whose goal is to elude touching, much less crunching.

Our forebears would have recognized this impersonation of football as a symptom of moral decline, reflecting an unwillingness to accept deprivation and a demand for instant and frequent gratification. The same phenomenon accounts for the mad proliferation of postseason bowl games.

This year, 34 of these will be played (more than double the number in 1980), creating the biggest glut this side of the housing sector. They include the EagleBank in Washington, D.C., the R+L Carriers New Orleans, the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia and the Gaylord Hotels Music City.

Think of it: Half a century hence, an elderly man will dandle his grandson on his knee and regale him with stirring tales of the 2008 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

He will be the only one who remembers. Filling all those instantly forgettable games requires 68 teams. Major college football includes only 120 schools. You don't even have to be average to make it. It is only a matter of time before bowls become like youth soccer trophies -- guaranteed to every participant, no matter how inept.

Maybe we should all take the view that, as Mae West put it, too much of a good thing is wonderful. But as the folks at Lehman Brothers and Citigroup can attest, unbridled excess can be a recipe for regret.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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