An excerpt from Border Canto Trilogy:
“Every year, on December 31st, banished El Pasoans from around the
nation rejoice as they tune in to watch the Sun Bowl. Although the
football game is usually quite good, we watch to see our beloved
The Sun Bowl, I have been told, is the second oldest of
bowl games, the only one older being the Rose Bowl. Other bowls make
the same claim, particularly another one played in Texas. Perhaps
all bowl committees are telling the truth. It gives a community
great pride to claim its bowl is the second oldest, and I do not
mind other communities sharing in this pride. We El Pasoans don’t
need to be selfish about such things.
Sun Bowl Stadium is nestled near the Rio Grande side of
the mountain among several peaks, and the stadium itself is a
testament to the beautiful majesty of the desert. Perhaps the actual
structure is undistinguished, but the natural setting makes it, in
the eyes of a desert rat like me, anyway, the most beautiful venue
in all of sports.
We banished El Pasoans often do not pay attention to
the game, watching the edge of the screen, looking at the city
peaking up from behind the stadium. My wife and I love to engage in
this ritual, much to the chagrin of our children, who would rather
be watching Disney videos.
"Look," she can say. "You can see Juárez."
Or I will say, "Look! It’s the house my parents used to
Another time, she was watching and kind of shrieked.
"Look! It’s Jayme! Remember Jayme?"
We banished border dwellers resent the intrusions the
announcers make into the halftime show, because we hope to see our
city’s culture celebrated, or at least our high school’s band get to
march. But the announcers tend to be very gracious about the city,
and always stress how nicely they’ve been treated, how friendly the
community is, and how they hope to be invited back next year. Of
course all announcers at all bowl games say this, but I flatter
myself that the announcers at the Sun Bowl really mean it and all
others are only being polite.
The first time I went was one of the few times game was
scheduled for Christmas Day, I guess to accommodate the network
television schedules. The halftime entertainment was Mrs. José
Feliciano. I was disappointed José himself had not come, but when
she launched into ‘Feliz Navidad,’ the entire stands thundered with
wild joyful cries of, "Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad,
prospero año y felizidad." It was very exciting to be a part of and
to sing along with, and Mrs. Feliciano received a hero’s welcome for
As with anything, the need for money changed the Sun
Bowl, and it had to go looking for corporate sponsorship in order to
pay the appearance fees college football programs demand to play in
bowl games. One company stepped in and some El Pasoans cheered and
bought the company’s insurance out of gratitude, but the company
became too bold and insisted on changing the name of the bowl itself
and it became the John Hancock Bowl, a humiliation which was even
worse than the people of Northern Louisiana had to endure when their
bowl game changed to the Poulan Weedeater Independence Bowl. We were
happy when the insurance company dropped its sponsorship of our
bowl, and the bank which stepped in and took over sponsorship gave
itself more positive public relations than it could have imagined by
restoring the good old name, and now it is simply the Sun Bowl