The SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) and the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) are essentially THE conferences for HBCU sports. Sure there are other conferences with HBCUs sprinkled throughout, but these two conferences have often been the go-to for bowl games that would essentially determine the Black College champions. There have been a couple attempts to get the two conferences to play each other, but they have all faded away for one reason or another, so you can imagine the skepticism that surrounded the announcement of the Celebration Bowl earlier this year. Two HBCUs playing on national television? Played in mid-December? MEAC sacrificing its playoff spot to participate? Tons of people spoke ill of the game, but come December 19th it was played anyway, and having attended, I can safely say it was awesome.
Most of you know I would love the game regardless, since it was played between MEAC co-champion North Carolina A&T and my alma mater Alcorn State University. In addition to that, being a supporter of the HBCU experience I was probably going to go even if Alcorn didn’t make it. That of course, brings me to the main reason why I enjoyed the game so much: it was a full display of HBCU excellence. The game was broadcast on ABC so people all over the country got a chance to see these schools put their best foot forward, with the crazy plays and great band battles the game was entertaining from beginning to end. To see so much excellence is necessary to advertise not only these two schools but HBCUs in general to the public.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how little HBCUs are talked about by high schools, so to have two HBCUs selling themselves on national TV is huge for recruitment. As many of my fellow Alcornites have commented, people all over (even those at PWIs) took notice of what Alcorn and NCAT did on December 19th. If even a percentage of those kids that came to the game or saw it on TV are made aware of HBCU excellence by the game then it would have more than served its purpose. HBCUs were given a platform by the Air Force, ESPN, and ABC and all they have to do is perform, and all we must do is support.
There were a little over 35,000 people at the game and almost 2 million people watching at home. While that is a GREAT turnout for a first time bowl, it could easily be much higher. As a few articles and fans have pointed out; most of the crowd was SWAC supporters. While it is true that the SWAC is known for packing stadiums, considering the fact that about half of the MEAC schools are closer than Alcorn to Atlanta it makes no sense that NCAT and all of the other MEAC schools were outnumbered by SWAC schools so badly. Apparently, the MEAC is still bitter about having to forfeit its spot in the playoff that the always lost badly in. In other words, a sizable number of “fans” (not saying all or even the majority) would rather have a seat at the table than try to build their own.
We know that the black community has a ton of buying power. The Celebration Bowl is one of the things we can use that power to support and make sure it continues. Even if it’s not buying tickets and going (I can’t say that I would travel more than two hours if Alcorn wasn’t playing in the Bowl) word of mouth and not degrading something the game can go a long way. Positive commentary on a product is almost as good as actually buying the product, and the negative comments I saw from a lot of people (especially those in the MEAC and other black people) were sad and pathetic. We have to know that social media can determine the success or failure of a product in this day and age, I mean look at how social media did Patti’s Pies. I mean sure, they were out and selling okay for a minute, but you’re a fool if you don’t think that video had a HUGE impact on Mama Patti selling a pie a second for 72 straight hours. We need to support this bowl the same way we ran out and supported those pies; as the bowl would surely give more opportunity to other people.
One such opportunity is the opportunity to just be. As a community, one of our greatest strengths (and weaknesses) is our ability to find happiness and joy in the smallest things to step out of the often depressing reality we live every day. I mean look at the collective reaction whenever there’s a good (black) award show or how people reacted to The Wiz Live! The Celebration Bowl for most people was just like that; a big reunion, a time to have good fun a time to forget about the outside world, and a celebration of blackness in all its forms. The joy and happiness that people felt in that stadium rocking out to the bands, watching the highlights and just fellowshipping with fellow HBCU alum is more than enough reason to support this Bowl as much as we can, and with a contract until at least 2019 we have plenty of time to do just that.
Did you attend or watch the Celebration Bowl? What do you think of our ability to sustain our own bowl game? Leave your questions, comments, and concerns below and don't forget to like, share, and subscribe!