I love college football.
The fight songs, the upsets, the awesome and sometimes hilarious rivalry trophies, the paint-their-chest-in-freezing-weather fans, the season-making rivalry games, the importance of winning every week, the spread offenses, the Heisman Trophy, rushing the field…it’s awesome.
Sometimes though, I hate college football. Ever since college presidents and athletic directors proved that making money was their only objective, not the fans, century-old traditions, common sense, basic geography, or–especially–the well-being of student athletes (LOL!!)
Conference realignment and ESPN’s out-sized coverage of the sport have made it less enjoyable in recent years, but there are still times when it makes me feel like a kid again.
Like this past Saturday, when I spent my day on the couch, watching Michigan-Ohio State, then Alabama-Auburn, then Notre Dame-Stanford, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, Florida State-Florida, Texas A&M-LSU, Mississippi-Mississippi State and even UConn-Temple.
It was an awesome way to spend the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and honestly, I don’t know what non-fans do on fall Saturdays. And that’s where this sport hooks me.
Sometimes, I want to wrap my arms around college football and hold onto it forever. Other times, I’m forced to act like I don’t even know who it is.
I’ve always argued that the college game is more fun than the NFL, but even I can’t begin to defend the bowl system, which is a pointless money-grab that serves no purpose other than as a superlative, biased ranking of where teams stacked up during the season. But even that doesn’t work anymore.
It used to be that you could say, “Oh, Washington State made the Holiday Bowl this year…that means they must have a pretty good team! Or, oh…Washington State is in the Insight.com Bowl? Man, they got screwed! They should have been a Cotton Bowl team this year!”
Now, it’s, “Washington State is playing in the AdvoCare Bowl? Umm…ok, I guess? Actually, I’m not sure what that says about their season.”
Sponsors have bought at least partial naming rights to every bowl game on the landscape, taking something benign and ultimately pointless, yet steeped in tradition, and rendering it completely, unmistakably pointless.
Bowl games used to be like the slab of eel our Swedish relatives made for Christmas Eve. It was kind of gross, and nobody really wanted to eat it, but they kept making it because you know, it was tradition.
Games like the Peach Bowl was always pointless. No one really cared about it–but it was cool because it was always there, and you’d watch it every year, and remember the teams that had played in it in years past.
The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl doesn’t quite have that feel. Neither does the Boca Raton Bowl, or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, or the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, the GoDaddy Bowl, or the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl, none of which we made up.
Why do these inane bowl games continue, while only four teams make the College Football Playoff and every other instance of organized football (including the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision, a.k.a. Division 1-AA), holds a playoff?
Money. Of course. Not the most money that could possibly be made—the College Football Playoff brings in exponentially more than these ridiculous bowl games. But the bowls bring in big-time cash for the people running them–and they’re the ones in charge of the sport.
Money, of course, is pretty much the problem with the whole thing–there’s too much of it, and none of it goes to the athletes.
The guise of “amateurism” is well-documented, as are things like whether or not the athletes actually go to class, whether or not they get free passes from community leaders and coaches despite criminal activity, whether or not they deserve to be in college at all, or whether or not they deserve more than just a college scholarship for their considerable economic impact on the schools they represent.
But it’s not just the athletes that exist in this warped football world.
It’s the delusional boosters like the ones at LSU, where Les Miles, who should be a legend there, nearly got fired for losing three games in a row. The horror.
Forget that LSU was pretty much an afterthought before Miles got to Baton Rouge. Forget that the man won a national championship and reached another title game in his 11 years there, or that he’s got a winning percentage of .725.
These boosters believe that LSU is the best program in the country, and anything less than a national title EVERY SINGLE YEAR is unacceptable.
Come on, now.
All of this would be enough to turn off the TV, take a walk outside and tell Larry the Dr. Pepper guy to drown in Dr. Pibb.
But then I turn the TV back on, and the players come rushing out of the tunnel, and the cheerleaders start jumping around, and the fans with painted chests start screaming like WWE superstars.
And I start humming the fight song.