Pop Goes the Tart

January 3, 2024
“Dreams really do come true!”
 -sign held by mascot, Pop Tarts Bowl 2023
 I witnessed some of last week’s televised college football match between Kansas State and North Carolina State, but not because I gave a flip about the teams or outcome of the game. No, it was because I’d heard it was the Pop Tarts Bowl, named after its sugary sponsor (it was formerly the Blockbuster Bowl), and I just had to see how the whole affair would be handled. I was riveted by the person romping around dressed as a smiling, square breakfast treat. Fun mascot, right? But rumor had it that the ending would involve the winning team actually chowing down on a gigantic Pop Tart. Say it ain’t so, General Mills! Consuming Mr. or Ms. Strawberry seemed beyond the pale, almost cannibalistic.   
The powers-that-be were prepared for this understandable hesitation. So, to soothe us, the sponsor’s clever advertising team spun it this way: yes, Pop Tarts are made to be eaten, but they (the tarts) actually ENJOY the process of being chewed up!! No need to cry for Strawberry—they may be interacting adorably with the football fans now—but they will soon go happily to their delicious fate!   
And indeed, in the spectacle’s bizarre finale, the mascot, still grinning and waving, was lowered into a giant toaster, emerging flattened and ready to be consumed. The Kansas State Wildcats and families were seen chomping merrily away on pieces of a huge actual Pop Tart. This transformation felt obscenely like a ritual sacrifice, more grotesque and stomach-turning than lighthearted fun. And so to bed, impressionable kiddies! Happy Pop Tart dreams/nightmares!   
Let’s unpack this. On one level, a live Pop Tart was just a really stupid idea. On another, it was the pinnacle--some might even say the nadir--of ludicrous sports mascots (and here I thought the Phillie Phanatic was weird). But, hey! On further thought, maybe it was designed to be subversive, a scathing satire of the over-commercialization of…well, everything.  
Nah, something tells me that these folks are totally serious.  
Time was, bowls were named Rose, Orange and Super, and that was that. If a company invested heavily in a stadium or performance arena, said locale wasn’t automatically renamed something unbearably clunky. But nowadays, the aforementioned Phanatic cavorts for the baseball fans in “Citizens Bank Park.” The New Orleans Pelicans play basketball in “Smoothie King Arena” (named for a Korean soft serve ice cream franchise). And Elton John’s Memphis farewell concert really was held in the “FedEx Forum.”   
Where do we go from here?   I suggest we take a big step back. Let’s pause in our re-labeling frenzy. Perhaps our corporations would look more attractive and community-minded if they let their venues “speak” for themselves. Personally, I’d much rather go to a sporting event in, say, Madison Square Garden than at "Diet Pepsi Stadium." Don’t worry, sponsors! I’ll still know you "own" the place!   
For now, though, tasty toaster pastries are just ruined for me.

    I am an author (of five books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a retired director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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