STEVE MARCUS / LAS VEGAS SUN file
Thursday, April 16, 2009 | 2 a.m.
I am convinced that if diabolic supervillain Lex Luthor trained a death ray on Las Vegas and pulled the trigger, the only thing still standing would be the Las Vegas Bowl. And maybe Slots-A-Fun.
I also have my suspicions that Tina Kunzer-Murphy might be Supergirl. Only the postseason college football game she executively directs must be immune to Kryptonite.
Not to mention the flagging economy.
Or the fact that Pioneer is no longer making plasma televisions.
For the past five years the home electronics giant served as title sponsor of the Las Vegas Bowl. It’s the reason Kunzer-Murphy has two PureVision television sets in her home. But Pioneer recently got out of the plasma television set business. (Kunzer-Murphy still has hers.)
Losing a title sponsor at this late date didn’t seem like a positive development for a second-tier bowl game trying to stay afloat in choppy economic seas (plus pirates), although Kunzer-Murphy said she probably could have talked Pioneer into staying on for one more year, if she had to.
She didn’t have to. She never has to. Everything she touches turns into a sellout crowd or a new three-year title sponsorship deal with an option for a fourth.
Kunzer-Murphy is like Jerry’s girlfriend in “Seinfeld” who would get him out of speeding tickets by batting her eyes. She touches an empty glass and it immediately becomes half-full. Then BYU starts winning again. And Arizona becomes bowl eligible for the first time since leather helmets — in the same year its basketball team is scheduled to play in Las Vegas on the same day.
Considering how my allergies have been killing me, I was this close to asking TKM to touch my sinus cavities, like one of those TV evangelists.
On Tuesday the Las Vegas Bowl became Maaco Bowl Las Vegas. Three years with an option for a fourth. Just like I said. Only with the name of our city at the end this time.
Queen Midas delivers again.
OK, so the new name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Or tantalize the taste buds. The local and undernourished media were hoping if the Las Vegas Bowl had to forsake its name for a few million simoleons, it would become the Chick-fil-A Bowl’s identical twin instead of the Meineke Car Care Bowl’s distant cousin.
Meineke, which specializes in discount mufflers, and Maaco, a chain of paint and body shops, are owned by the same company, Driven Brands of King of Prussia, Pa.
But I suppose we’ll get used to the Maaco Bowl. We got used to the 51s, didn’t we?
With this announcement, our bowl game is assured short-term survival, even should BYU start losing again or accept an invitation to play in somebody else’s postseason classic, which, of course, won’t happen unless Kunzer-Murphy wills it so.
Next year, when virtually all of these sponsorships besides those of the BCS bowls are up for renewal, Las Vegas’ preemptive sponsorship strike will be all that and a bag of Tostitos.
A lot of minor bowl games will likely be pushing up Astro-Bluebonnets, if the economy doesn’t come back around.
Kunzer-Murphy says securing a three-year sponsorship with a well-recognized company such as Maaco ensures our local bowl game will have a bright future.
Normally, you’d dismiss that as press release rhetoric. And you’d change the part about Maaco being “well-recognized” to “sort of familiar.” But Kunzer-Murphy is right. She’s always right.
Also know this: Her sales acumen (and incredible good luck) aside, she always deflects credit for the Las Vegas — er, Maaco Bowl’s success to corporate partners who move and shake. These would include ESPN and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, juggernauts with executives who like to play golf and conduct business with executives of other companies who like to play golf. That is exactly how this deal came to pass, or, out of respect to last year’s Las Vegas Bowl champion Wildcats, how this deal came to pass while mixing in the run.
The other thing you should know is the game will be played on a Tuesday night (Dec. 22) instead of a Saturday night, so players and fans can be home for Christmas and the Maaco Bowl won’t have to compete with the Dallas Cowboys for TV ratings, like last year. It will still match up the champion, or first choice, from the Mountain West, against the fourth- or fifth-place team from the Pac-10, which may or may not care. Tickets, scaled from $20 to $100, will go on sale May 1.
One last side note:
On the way out of the news conference I spotted this garish-looking green and yellow PT Cruiser in the parking lot that had a picture of Bart Starr on one side, a giant wedge of cheese on the other and Green Bay Packers logos in every spot in between.
Being a longtime Bears fan, I took the business card of one of the Maaco executives and placed it under the windshield wiper.
But that’s only because I don’t own a death ray.