How about international bowl games in destinations of intrigue? Photo by Harrison Shiels

College football fans in America, each December, enjoy “bowl season,” a three-week series of matchups played between various teams that qualified by winning at least seven times during their 12-game autumn schedules.

Being invited to compete in a bowl game is a traditional reward of sorts for teams – and their faithful fans – which takes them to typically warm weather locations during the holiday season, giving them a reason to escape from dark, wintry places like Ann Arbor, South Bend, and Columbus and travel to Tampa, Pasadena, and Phoenix.

Not all bowl game destinations are equal, though; teams which have won more games get more enticing invitations. So while the Crimson Tide team might get to play in the Miami surf, the seven-win Spartans might end up in, say, Shreveport.

While many of the bowl games are now named for their corporate sponsors – such as the Cheez-It Bowl; the TaxSlayer Bowl; or the Dollar General Bowl – most were originally created to promote tourism or tout the local product an area exports: Miami’s Orange Bowl; the Cotton Bowl in Dallas; the Peach Bowl in Atlanta; or, in Boise, the Idaho Potato Bowl, to name a few. Area hotel rooms and restaurants fill up with traveling spectators and deep-pocketed alumni and fans watching on television are subliminally fed tangerines or Tostitos (in the case of the Citrus Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl, respectively.)

While bowl game sites in Nashville, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Honolulu certainly have opportunities for fun for fans, I can’t help but fantasize about more intriguing potential bowl destinations:

The bull ring in Pamplona holds 20,000 spectators. Photo by Harrison Shiels

Bull Fight Bowl in Madrid

23,000 people could full Spain’s Plaza de Toros Las Ventas, the bull ring in Madrid. Turn a toro loose during the game and instead of passing the ball, the teams might have to perfect the “running game of the bulls.”

To actually run with the bulls and visit Spain, go to

Could Casino de Monte Carlo, in Monaco, book bets on a bowl game? Photo by Harrison Shiels

Monte Carlo Bowl Monaco

The Societe des Bains de Mer could clear the glamorous lawn area in front of the Casino de Monte Carlo of all the Maserati, Ferrari, and Lamborghini vehicles – but simply leave up the grandstands from the famed Monaco Grand Prix. The quarterbacks would surely have to thread the needle at the infamous “Fairmont Hairpin Turn.”

To truly visit the world’s second-smallest count learn more at

The Roman Empire’s version of college football’s Rose Bowl hosted all manner of sporting contests. Photo by Harrison Shiels

Roman Colosseum Bowl Italy

6 million visitors come to see the monumental remnants of the 2,000 year-old amphitheatre in the middle of Eternal City each year. While the Romans watched executions, exotic animal exhibitions, and gladiator fights there, spectators have never gathered in its Flavian Amphitheatre to see a “toe to leather” football game. Would it be insensitive to schedule the Nittany Lions against the Valparaiso Crusaders?

To actually visit the sites of authentic, Ancient Rome go to

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way includes the stunning scenery of these lethal cliffs in County Clare. Photo by Harrison Shiels

Cliffs of Moher Bowl Ireland

The wind would be a definite factor in a game played on the Wild Atlantic Way in the West of Ireland. Running out of bounds at this popular natural tourist attraction would mean stepping off County Clare itself via a 650-foot drop into the turbulent sea below.

To actually go to the Emerald Isle, visit

Surely the Fighting Irish would be considered the home team at a bowl game in Paris. Photo by Harrison Shiels

Paris Pigskin Bowl

Fans in France could watch the game played on the Champs-Elysees from storefront suites while they shop along the broad avenue. Imagine football at Fouquet’s – the historic brasserie on the corner of Avenue George V.

To enjoy the true charms of Paris, visit

The 18th at Pebble Beach Golf Links could have a gridiron painted on it. Photo by Harrison Shiels

Pebble Beach Bowl

Golf enthusiasts worldwide watch celebrities headlined by actor Bill Murray compete with PGA Tour players on America’s most famous resort golf course each February in the tournament once known as “Bing Crosby’s Clambake.” The iconic 18th hole, a long, scenic par-5 played along the Pacific’s Stillwater Cove, would make a panoramic grassy gridiron for football fans watching from The Lodge’s Club 19.

Want to play Pebble? Connect at

Sydney Harbor Bridge Bowl

Climbing to the top of the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge is the city’s most thrilling tourism experience – and maybe the most accessible ascent. Instead of just spying Sydney’s unmistakable Opera House from 134 meters above sea level, imagine the bird’s eye view of a kickoff below on the bridge’s busy byway. Of course, down under, the football game would likely have to be played under Aussie Rules.

You can actually climb the bridge. Start at

Author: Michael Patrick Shiels  is an author, travel writer and radio host. Read him at   You can contact him at [email protected]

Michael Patrick Shiels

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