When you think of a college football bowl game, there are plenty of things that come to mind: hail marys, shocking fumbles and thrilling upsets among them. Simulated cannibalism is generally not in the cards — and yet, that’s precisely how this year’s Pop-Tarts Bowl between the Kansas State Wildcats and the North Carolina State Wolfpack ended.
This was the first time Pop-Tarts would be featured in the game’s name, though the bowl’s corporate sponsorship hasn’t changed; from 2020 to 2022, it was known as the Cheez-It Bowl, but since the match formerly known as the Citrus Bowl is now the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl, sponsor Kellanova (formerly known as Kellogg’s) opted to focus on a different product for this game this time around.
And, look: I’ll freely acknowledge that the bizarre qualities of the post-game festivities seem designed to go as viral as possible. Still, those qualities are so unfailingly bizarre that it’s difficult not to write about them — it’s like if J.G. Ballard or George Saunders’s nightmarish visions of humanity and consumerism gone wrong was turned into entertainment for a large sporting event.
The first sign that things would be strange this year came with the presence of an “edible mascot” on the sidelines — essentially, a person in a giant Pop-Tart costume. Sportswriter Rodger Sherman chronicled his bizarre encounter with the mascot on social media. This encounter involved the mascot force-feeding Sherman an actual Pop-Tart.
This was not the strangest thing that happened at the game.
That distinction instead falls to the post-game festivities, in which the “edible mascot” descended into a large toaster while holding a sign reading, “Dreams really do come true.” An actual giant Pop-Tart emerged, and the players from winners Kansas State began grabbing handfuls of it and eating it while Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” played.
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To reiterate: this is something that happened at an actual college bowl game and not a stress nightmare sparked by a visit to the breakfast foods section of a grocery store. On one hand, there’s something very Lord of the Flies about this all; on the other hand, sports could always use a great deal more weirdness, and this certainly qualifies. See also: Gritty.
For the record, Kansas State took an early lead and never really relinquished it. The final score? Wildcats 28, Wolfpack 19.