Why Do You Love College Football?
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Why do we love college football? Part
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November 18, 2011.
It was a Friday night in the bottom of the seventh inning of the college football season, and I was fried.
Once again, the biggest story of a college football season revolved around something that had nothing to do with the sport itself.
Forgetting that I hadn't slept more than six hours
straight in three months, it was five days after the most joyless game ever played - Nebraska vs. Penn State – and I was sick of dealing with Jerry Sandusky,
the brutal grand jury reports, and all of the fallout surrounding the scandal.
The game's allure might be partly due to the devotion and unwavering loyalty of the fans, but this time, they had gone too far. The perspective of otherwise normal people had become obliterated in one of the ugliest sports stories of our time.
There's were riots because a football coach lost his job, and not because of why. If this was how a rabid fan base was going to react in the wake of such horrific revelations, then what's the point?
I was trying to gear it up for a big weekend of games, but it was hard. To bring things down even more, everything became overshadowed by the tragic plane crash that killed members of the Oklahoma State athletic department and women's basketball coaching staff.
And then came Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State.
Admittedly, I needed a college football break as I laid in bed mindlessly watching whatever design show the wife had on. I had one eye on the SlingBox playing the game on my phone, since I knew I had to write about it, and then, all of a sudden, the game became shockingly amazing.
For a brief moment I stopped caring about Mike McQueary when Jared Barnett magically led the Cyclones to a second half comeback, and was glued to the unfolding storyline as Cowboy kicker Quinn Sharp missed a possible game-winning field goal late in regulation. And then, of course, Iowa State pulled off the overtime shocker to throw the season into a tizzy.
Just when it seemed like it LSU and Oklahoma State were careening toward the BCS championship, it became Game On when it came to the debates, the theoretical arguments, and the fight over whether or not Alabama should get a second chance.
No, no one forgot about everything else that was going on, and obviously the game didn't mean anything compared to the real world problems in State College and after the OSU tragedy, but the upset proved college football has a way of uncovering fun surprises around the corner.
Every college football season has a curveball, in a good way, and when you're not looking
... boom. Everything becomes fun again. Granted, that's part of the problem – many think the sins will simply wash away after the ball is kicked off – but yes, it's possible to love the game for those three-plus hours and maintain the perspective that it's still just a game.
Oh college football, I can't stay mad at you. You amuse me too much.
Oh, how I love thee, let me count the ways.
College football entered my bloodstream decades ago, and has never left. It's an intoxicating sport that transcends box scores and the simplicity of wins and losses. It's still football, but it has—thankfully—remained in an entirely different zip code than the NFL. There's a charm to college football that's evident in the players, the fans, the campus and the communities. It is woven into the fabric of various small towns across the country, becoming a part of Americana, much the way baseball was more than a half-century ago. It can bind generations of families … or tear them apart, depending on where you live. Of course, the game has changed over time, but there remains a certain purity to it, a sense that the athletes are participating because they truly have a passion for the game and the schools they represent.
So, let me count the ways.
8. Tact and Class – I cannot stand showboating in sports. Never will. The fact that college football demands its athletes conduct themselves with some dignity on the field is something I hope never changes. Leave the Twyla Tharp productions and ridiculous antics to the guys who play on Sundays.
7. The Awards – Knock the Heisman if you'd like, but I still enjoy following the award and its contenders throughout the season. There's a reason no individual honor in American sports is more recognizable than the Heisman Trophy.
6. The History – Herschel. Woody and Bo. Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. The Death Penalty. Ernie Davis. The history of college football reads like something straight out of central casting, with enough poignant stories to keep fans engaged for another century.
5. The Rivalries – Auburn-Alabama. Ohio State-Michigan. USC-Notre Dame. Army-Navy. Harvard-Yale. The passion and energy for these games is such that extenuating circumstances, like a team's record, become almost irrelevant. Plus, the eclectic trophies, like Floyd of Rosedale, are almost too good to be true.
4. The Traditions – Script Ohio. Touchdown Jesus. The 12th Man. Toomer's Corner. The traditions in the game are timeless, quaint and unlike what you get from pro scouts, never feel scripted or rehearsed.
3. Saturday Nights in the Fall – A close second to a sunbaked Saturday afternoon in October is a chilly evening in November, with a slate that includes pivotal showdowns in the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12.
2. Turnover – One of the underrated gems of college athletics, in general, is that stars graduate. Because when one of the game's greats exits, it simply opens the door for the next generation to walk through. Budding stars, especially the young ones, ensure that there's fresh energy and new storylines to pour over each season.
1. Saturdays in the Fall – Thursday and Friday night games can be interesting undercards for the weekend, but Saturdays in autumn are about as close to sporting nirvana as you're going to get in this country.
Why do we love college football? Part