6) Neutral site games are kind of sweet
I find it odd I’m listing this one but hear me out. The NFL has the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl and some games abroad. All very pricey.
College football has a lot more neutral site games and while I often would prefer more games to be hosted by a home team on campus, some of the best times I’ve had the last 15 years have been saying “Fuck it! I’m doing it! Who’s coming with me!” Yes it’s a money making racket, but being with fellow students, alumni, friends and family in large numbers (opposed to going to a road game in hostile territory in smaller groups) can be awesome.
There is something about going on the road with your team, with your closest friends and family, and trying to let loose before shit gets real that just never gets old no matter how much money I’m spending and what city I’m in.
Less bowl games, cheaper tickets, shorter travel, etc…. sure. That said, if I find out my team is playing somewhere cool and my schedule is open and my bank account is not hurting too bad, why the hell not (especially as a single dude).
7) No fantasy football
Yes technically there is college fantasy football, but in my 34 years in this earth nobody has asked me to join a league. Listen, I like fantasy football but it’s overkill at this point. It’s diluted a more pure fandom of rooting for an actual team.
I don’t care who you drafted, random dude at work. No I don’t want to see your roster and give you advice, attractive member of the opposite sex who is currently in a relationship. Ok whatever, maybe I do. Yes, I do think you’re a douchebag because you’re going nuts at the bar rooting for C.J. Anderson when he gets 5 yards on a carry but then getting all pissed off when Ronnie Hillman gets a carry. Oh you might lose your $25 a year league? Meanwhile my $100 4 team parlay just imploded with a back door cover.
Fantasy football is the greatest thing to have happened the NFL since the forward pass and yet it’s made it unbearable. I’m just going to cut this one short before I say much more but at the end of the day everyone having mutual funds of random players opposed to actual rooting interests in a team has really hijacked the discourse and fandom of the sport.
8) Conference pride
Every January 1, I wake up early in the AM on the west coast to watch random bowl games. Speficially I’m rooting for the B1G Ten to do well and, more specifically, kick the SEC’s ass. This usually does not go well and yet I do it every year and also go through the same drill for early season out of conference games.
Over the last few decades, conference pride has become a HUGE thing. It’s a blessing and a curse as it really can lead to toxic and ignorant discussions. That said, similar to recruiting giving fans a year long outlet of being a fan, conference pride does allow fans of teams who aren’t doing so hot a broader rooting interest that typically centers around big games and is tinged with regional pride. Conference pride isn’t just limited to games, but who has a better TV deal or conference network, which conference makes more revenue, who has the biggest stadium, and so on.
It might be a bit too much and bring out the worst in fanbases, but it’s another example of college football fans having a passionate rooting interest in games beyond their team.
9) More games = more crazy shit happens
The NFL has three windows on Sundays. An average week with games on Thursday and Monday usually leaves something like 8 games in the morning, 4 games in the afternoon, and then the night game. It’s about nine hours of football but often some Sundays where there is a sparse offering of competitive afternoon games or a lop sided night game, it can often cut down your 9 hours of good football down to 4 or 5.
College football by virtue of having a hundred plus teams at the highest level allows you a lot more of a safety net of entertainment. From 12 PM – 2 AM ET, you can count on a bevy of games going on. Very rarely do you find yourself in a viewing window where you can’t find a game of national interest that is really close you can latch onto. Better yet, there are times where it seems there are 5 important games that are all INSANE happening at the same time.
The NFL certainly has games that go bananas and memorable Sundays but college football fans can hit a whole level of euphoria when the stars line up and that happens much more often.
10) More passion and pageantry
Ask a college football fan what stadiums they want to go and why and then compare that to an NFL fan’s answer. There are certainly some stadiums in the NFL that warrant a trip to but it’s a diluted corporate experience with fans sitting, no marching band, no student section, and few gameday traditions.
If you asked me what ten college stadiums I’d like to go to that I haven’t been to yet and why, that might take me an hour to answer (not hard to believe given you’ve read me ramble this long). NFL stadiums are in big cities with expensive parking. You fly there and go to some insurance company named stadium that recently replaced a perfectly fine stadium at the cost of a billion dollars of public funds. You sit the majority of the game and hope to check out some cool restaurants on your trip. Not bad…..
College football stadiums are on campuses (mostly) and mostly in the heartland. You drive sometimes in an RV. You play your marching band’s soundtrack and sing along before the game. You stay for the halftime show to see your marching band. You check out all the unique bars and restaurants that are hidden gems to the local community and not just a place that Greg at work recommended as they catered a sales conference a while ago and was rated “the top place in all of of Houston to eat a power lunch!” Take a boat to the game at Tennessee or Washington because you can. Jump around at Wisconsin or go to yell practice at Texas A&M. Check out Purdue’s big drum (actually, you can pass on that), say hi to Bevo or Ralphie, admire Script Ohio, and enjoy the entrances at Virginia Tech or Clemson.
Steelers fans wave a towel? The half empty Raiders stadium (even with thousands of added new seats being tarped off) which keeps getting renamed has a Black Hole? Oh the Packers jump into the crowd! This passion and pageantry between the NFL and college football is like comparing HBO to Starz.
Not every D-I team has their own flavor of fanaticism but maybe half do and despite the fact that I may dislike half of these teams, I’m still eager to experience their unique fandom experience because they are all that vibrant and defined.
The NFL is my second favorite sport to follow and it was the sport I fell in love with first. That said, college football is perhaps my most favorite thing in the world and the NFL is just something I watch on Sundays often with little or modest levels of enjoyment, intrigue, or emotion.
My friends can keep rolling their eyes at me when I talk about college football. At the end of the day I know they’ll never love the NFL as much as I love college football and frankly I’m not sure they’ll love anything (outside of immediate family) at that level. Saturdays in the fall whether at a game, a tailgate, a bar, a party, or even a couch alone can register from a good time to absolutely magical and I don’t think that will ever change for me.
[photo: Saturdays Down South]