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Review: Bowls, Polls & Tattered Souls by Stewart Mandel

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Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated's "College Football Mailbag" offers up "Bowls, Polls And Tattered Souls" covering the biggest issues in college football.

Say what you want about Mandel. Call him an idiot because he doesn't rank your team high or has a different point of view, but he knows how to kick-start a conversation.

Consider "Bowls, Polls And Tattered Souls" as a highly concentrated version of his 'Mailbag" column.  Combine solid explanations of the issues with Mandel's penchant for sarcasm and the result is a book that's required reading for any college football fan.

A list of the chapters in the book (in no particular order):

  • One Nation, Under The BCS

A rational explanation of how the BCS works (or doesn't, depending upon your point of view). The best chapter of the book as it completely explains the dynamics of the different interests at work who together created the current environment of post-season play that we all enjoy.

  • Pulling Rank

A trip through the schizophrenia of polls and rankings.

  • "He" won the Heisman?

Why the guy that wins the Heisman wins it, and the Heisman Trophy's demise as sports greatest award

  • What's the deal with notre dame?

Why Notre Dame is special, whether you love or hate them.


How web sites such as this blog are changing how we see college football and the insanely high expectations placed upon today's coaches. Frank Solich and Steve Pederson (Mandel refers to him as an egomaniac) are highlighted here as is SB Nation's own UCLA blog, "Bruins Nation".

  • Invasion of the Recruiting Geeks

Why does that guy get five stars? The question is answered.

  • How Boston College and Clemson became neighbors

Conference re-alignments, centered around the Big East and ACC as examples of how and why these happen.

  •  That's Great, now run a 40

A review of the stupidity of the NFL draft. My favorite chapter because I could never understand how general managers in the NFL can be so blind yet keep their jobs. Now I do.

  • Everybody Cheats, Just Not My School

Cheating in college football - why some schools get nailed and others don't get so much.

  • Tonight, it's the MPC Motor City Car Care Credit Union Bowl.

Why the bowls are what they are.

Mandel reveals the chaos that is college football and then asks that we embrace that chaos and enjoy it. "Bowls, Polls And Tattered Souls" is a great read, even if you spend part of your time infuriated at him for skewing your school.  The good news is that as you keep reading, someone else's school is next up on the menu. That's the beauty of Mandel's writing - he has the ability to yank your chain so hard you want to punch him in the face while at the same time having difficulty in disagreeing with his reasoning. Unless you're irrational, and who would ever say such a thing about college football fans?

Bowls, Polls And Tattered Souls is a book that every college football fan should own. Understanding the issues will give you a leg up on those guys at the office and the next time they bring something up about college football, you can crush them into the ground. Who's not for that?

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