||Tuesday, December 31
More to bowl queens than just a tiara
By Jim Caple
The Fiesta Bowl Queen does not wield unlimited power, even within the borders of her Valley of the Sun kingdom.
Much to the dismay of Ohio State fans, for instance, she cannot order the beheading of Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey. Nor can she declare war on the Music City Bowl, raise taxes on fans wearing red, orange or gray shirts or have a lavish castle built for her outside the Scottsdale Mall.
"Don't I wish,'' said Jennifer Rimsza, a 20-year-old University of Arizona junior who assumed power this year in Tempe. "There are no tax breaks for me, I can't increase taxes and I can't fix Arizona's budget problem. There aren't any arranged marriages, either.''
Which is probably fortunate. A coupling with the Orange Bowl's King Orange is too disturbing an image to conceive. "The joke is that because the Fiesta Bowl doesn't have a king, my boyfriend is automatically the king, '' Rimsza said. "We're going to get him a little crown to wear.''
On the other hand, she isn't stalked by paparazzi. And she receives a full-ride scholarship, plus tickets to this week's Fiesta Bowl.
"That's the best perk, getting to see the national championship game,'' Rimsza said. "My friends have been badgering me for tickets ever since I was named queen.''
As a bowl queen, Rimsza is carrying on a tradition that dates back nearly as far as Queen Victoria, when the Tournament of Roses first crowned Hallie Woods as the Grandmommy of Them All in 1905. More followed over the years, but just as monarchies are shrinking from the world stage, queens aren't a bowl prerequisite anymore. The Orange Bowl recently dropped its annual queen while the Seattle Bowl barely has a game, let alone royalty to rule over it. But several bowls still honor the tradition, even if their queens never appear on the cover of People magazine or in a National Enquirer headline ("Rose Bowl Queen's Shameful Affair with Dodi, Bigfoot").
"No one knows what the Sun Bowl Queen is,'' said Sun Bowl Queen Amber Doolittle. "They'll see a picture with me wearing a crown and they'll think -- beauty pageant. It's just a beauty pageant, right? No, it's nothing like that. It's based on your résumé, your interview and what you do for the community.''
Oh, appearance still counts for something but bowl queens are generally the sort of young women who maintain a 4.0 GPA while serving on the Panhellenic Council, raising money for the United Way, baking cookies for shut-ins, donating blood twice a month and reading to the blind. The Fiesta Bowl selection criteria requires that a woman be at least 19 and younger than 23, be a college student in good standing, unmarried and have no children. After that, the selection committee judges the women on scholastic achievement, community involvement, appearance, poise and personality.
It's about as involved as the BCS formula, except strength of schedule and margin of victory are not considered.
"We came up with the ABC's of queen selection: Articulate, Bright and Charming,'' said Pete Arnold, the chairman of the Rose Queen selection committee. "There are nine people on the committee using a numbering system, all seeing and looking at different things, and that's how we do it. We start in late September and it takes about five weeks. We had 986 applicants try out this year.''
Most queens have their own courts. There are four Fiesta Bowl princesses, for example, and eight Sun Bowl princesses (from whom next year's Sun Queen is chosen).
"All the princesses are amazing,'' Rimsza said. "You know how girls are, and when one is queen and the others can be jealous, but we get along great. We were told our court has gotten along better than any in the past. So as far as I know they're not plotting to dethrone me.''
The appeals are simple. There are scholarships for many, networking opportunities for all and family ties for a few.
"The Sun Bowl is the finest tradition in El Paso,'' Doolittle said. "My grandfather was on the committee of the very first Sun Bowl and to be a part of that is a big thing for my family. My dad was absolutely ecstatic when I won. I'm the little girl who goes to all the games with Dad and he's just thrilled. We've gone together to every Sun Bowl I can remember.''
Of course, some royal titles are more prestigious than others. It was one thing to be the Queen of England and Empress of India as Victoria was, after all, and quite another to be the King of Pop. The same is true for bowl queens, where Rose Queen rolls off the tongue a little easier than Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl Queen or Crucial.com Humanitarian Bowl Queen.
But at least the Sun Queen doesn't have to worry anymore about the days when the bowl carried the name of its sponsor as its sole identification.
"That would be horrible,'' Doolittle said. "I'm the John Hancock queen. Yeah, right.''
Jim Caple is a writer for ESPN.com's Page 2.
ESPN.com's Bowl Journal