Thursday, September 3, 2009

PERSPECTIVE: WHAT MAKES COLLEGE FOOTBALL SO SPECIAL?

To kick off the 2009 college football season, let me pay tribute to this magnificent game. College football is the best game on earth! The NFL and NCAA are different, and I find the college game to be better. Therefore, before I am called for delay of game, I answer the burning question: What makes college football so special?

  1. Eternal Optimism. With college football players limited to four years of eligibility, college football teams have enough turnover each year that weaknesses can be turned into strengths in just one year. Right now, everyone has identical records. Fans everywhere have reasons to believe that this year will be THE year. A year of experience and maturity, a new freshman recruit, or a junior college transfer can make the difference in a team being middle of the pack and a contender. Whatever the end was to last year—a disappointing bowl performance, a losing record, or a win for the ages—time has dissipated the sorrow or escalated the ecstasy, and it is easy to talk ourselves into believing the best case scenario will become reality for our team.
  2. Blowouts. Who has not enjoyed watching big play after big play on the way to a 63-0 final score? You are watching a highlight video, no editing necessary. The game might lack competition, but the perfect execution and beautiful precision is captivating in its own right.
  3. Rankings. After a game ends, fans transfer all their interest in the final outcome of the game to the updated rankings. No blown call by the referee, no bad play call, no fumble, interception, or dropped pass generates as much discussion, debate, and interest for the next week than the rankings. As imperfect as they are, where would college football be without them? What else is more coveted by fans than to see their team “properly” ranked? Finally, without rankings, we could not have …
  4. Upsets. On the opposite end of the spectrum from blowouts, we find that rare occasion of the team that does not match up in hype, size, speed, or prominence, yet it rises to the occasion and beats a team that is highly ranked. This is why we tune in every week, because on any given Saturday, anyone can beat anyone. As we know, who does not like an underdog? Upsets, while they are happening, draw in casual fans and gets them to stop what they are doing and become emotionally attached to a no-name team, if only for a day, hoping they hold on and pull off the win.
  5. Schedule Variety. Teams have control of their schedules outside of the annual conference games. In the NFL, the league officials set the schedule and the fans are familiar with all 16 opponents in any given year. Colleges, however, make agreements with whoever they want. This brings a whole new element of mystery and intrigue to the season. The schedule of your favorite team may include a school you have never heard of, or it may include one of the traditional powers. Either way, it enhances the overall experience.
  6. Rivalries. Do I really need to say anything about this one? No matter how the season has gone in September and October, the win-loss records are thrown out as rivals square off for year-long bragging rights, for the upper hand in recruiting battles, for pride. Style points no longer matter, you are just happy to escape with the win. The difference between a 9-3 and an 8-4 season does not look like much on paper, but it is a huge difference when that fourth loss is a loss to your rival. No matter how successful a year is, you still feel like something was missing if you lost to your rival.
  7. Awards. End of the year accolades uniquely pique fans’ interest. From all-conference teams all the way to the Heisman Trophy, players’ every move is analyzed all year long. Debate rages from level of competition to intangible qualities to philosophically identifying the intent of the award so that the right player is selected. Players from every position are recognized as the best at their trade, whereas, in the NFL the accolades are limited to a handful of MVPs and Players of the Year. Some college awards take into account elements beyond play on the field—community service, academics, citizenship, and leadership. Players make so much effort and sacrifice throughout the year, it is good to see so many of them recognized for being exceptional.
  8. Bowls. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” For about two weeks in late December and early January, on any given day, you can find a match up of teams that had winning records, and that may never play each other again. Yes, the bowls have over multiplied and are now excessive, and January 1 is not what it used to be, but from a fan’s standpoint this is still the best way to satisfy your appetite for the game that you can make it through the long off-season. They also serve as a stage for legendary performances that stay etched in our memories forever: Boise State vs. Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Vince Young in the 2005 and 2006 Rose Bowls. The bowls are the closest thing in college football to March Madness in college basketball.

2 comments:

  1. The NFL is still better due to one simple fact: Playoff System.

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