The Miami Hurricanes won’t play the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl on a sheet of ice at Yankee Stadium in New York, but this game against the Wisconsin Badgers is not important for its exact details. It is more striking for its richness of metaphorical identity.
The Pinstripe Bowl is a rare thing in the 39-game college football bowl world: a cold-weather bowl.
Nashville (Music City) isn’t necessarily warm. El Paso (Sun) can be snowy. The Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit is a dome game. Only a handful of bowl games are played in cold weather, and the Pinstripe — in New York — is one of the more reliably cold postseason games of every college football December. Game time temperature expected to be around 40 degrees in the Bronx Thursday afternoon.
The reality of Miami’s bowl game shows how far the Hurricanes fell this year. Every significant bowl game is played in a warm-weather location or a dome: Fiesta (suburban Phoenix), Cotton (a suburban Dallas dome), Peach (a dome in Atlanta), Sugar (a dome in New Orleans), Orange (Miami), and Rose (suburban Los Angeles). If you’re not playing in a warm-weather or domed bowl game, you aren’t a member of the nation’s elite for that particular season.
Playing a cold-weather bowl in late December isn’t automatically a humiliation or a demotion for a team. The likes of Northwestern, Iowa State, Syracuse, Duke, and other teams which have played in recent Pinstripe Bowls took enormous satisfaction from being in this game — sometimes as an end unto itself, sometimes as a hoped-for catapult to a bigger season the next year.
For Miami, the only time a Pinstripe Bowl bid is acceptable is when the program is trying to rebuild, as it needed to do in the late 1990s under Butch Davis or at the start of new coaching tenures in this highly unsettled period in the post-Ken Dorsey era. In general, the Hurricanes have no business playing in a cold-weather bowl game. The fact that they are playing a team which is comfortable in cold weather — Wisconsin — only adds to the pervasive awareness of how much the Canes are out of their element in this contest.
A warm-weather team — which memorably turned into icicles last year in Pittsburgh against the Panthers — has to go to a cold-weather location against a cold-weather opponent in a fourth-tier bowl game. It is miserable on so many levels for this team, an inhabitant of South Florida’s lush environment, palm trees, and beautiful beaches…
.. and we haven’t even mentioned Manny Diaz yet.
Recruits are de-committing. A popular and talented assistant — arguably the crown jewel of the staff — is about to leave, ironically to a Temple program located in another city which gets very cold this time of year. Mark Richt now knows his defense might not be as formidable in 2019 as it otherwise would have been, which means his offense might have to compensate to an even greater degree. The need for Richt to fix his offense next season just became that much more acute.
The fact that the Pinstripe Bowl is situated against a backdrop of considerable adversity only makes this cold-weather trek that much more uncomfortable — and yet fitting — for Miami. The Canes are in a city they didn’t want to visit for the holiday. They have no momentum and no tangible sense that their offense is on the cusp of a breakthrough. They lost Manny Diaz to Temple. Their recruiting situation is precarious, to say the least.
No, the Yankee Stadium field isn’t a sheet of ice — not literally — but it might as well be.
In this cold, harsh, cruel environment — on this hard ground where it is difficult for roots to go deep into the soil — can Miami plant a seed which will grow into a strong and durable plant? Brought low and humiliated, can the Hurricanes start anew and begin rebuilding far away from home, carrying what they do in New York to spring ball, and the time of year when plants are supposed to blossom? When everything is miserable and barren and marked by the dead of winter, can Miami football create new life?
We are about to find out.
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