Another college football season is upon us. Another five months of blowouts, turnovers, punt returns for touchdowns, and drunken 19-year-olds has launched. This unique American tradition of pretending that college students are opting into an athletic activity, rather than colleges filling their purses as the minor leagues of actual football is, well, not very good football.
I am a reformed college football fan. I grew up cheer, cheering for old Notre Dame — not because I knew or was related to anyone who went there, or because, God forbid, I lived in in Indiana, but because my Irish grandfather loves the team. For Irish Americans who didn’t go to college, the Fighting Irish were a symbol and a powerhouse.
I still root for Notre Dame, but having grown up a bit and reached an age in which uncomfortable truths must be grappled with, I have come to understand that this product just isn’t very good. Watching Alabama crush some small school into dust is about as entertaining as a Hallmark Christmas movie, and frankly appeals to the same audience.
I know this makes me come off as some elitist Northeastern denizen of a big city looking down my nose at the bread and butter of the country, but I’m right. College football is no beautiful game, it is a panoply of individual talent and mistakes. It is, almost always, one bigger, better endowed team with a sleazy coach who is good at recruiting destroying some other team where the players might actually be trying to get a degree, rather than auditioning for NFL general managers.
Are college football games exciting? Occasionally they are, but rarely and only in the last frantic 10 minutes when some “oops” happens. To compare it to the exquisite beauty of the NFL is like comparing your kid’s dance recital to the Bolshoi. Oh, look, that kid tripped and fumbled the ball, we win!
Just look at last night’s battle between Florida and The University of Miami, what a barnburner, college football fans will argue, a close game, a nail biter. What it really was was a festival of fumbles and missed tackles. It was a symphony of sloppiness and poor play.
The fact that 100,000 thousand adults will file, full of booze, into Michigan’s stadium to watch 19-year-olds play a pathetic version of a man’s game should trouble us. The millions, maybe billions of dollars that adults spend betting on it should too. Aggrandizing a mediocre display of athletics does not accrue to the common good.
What’s going on here is cultural lag. In the first half of the 20th century, college football was football. The NFL was a distant dream and teams like West Point and the University of Pennsylvania were dominant forces. But as the game gained popularity, a better variety emerged. Professional football came into being and created a game that makes college look like a Foosball tournament compared to the World Cup.
Look, I don’t want to be the Grinch. I don’t want to take joy out of anybody’s life. If you like watching an inferior game played by kids, that’s your right. But don’t pretend it’s some pure version of the game. It isn’t. It’s an inferior version of the game that is usually as dull as plain donuts. Yay! Let’s all get excited about Alabama’s 900-point victory over whatever tech!
The world will little note nor long remember my protestation over college football. But it’s just not good. The college football fan is like the dad who takes his kid to a minor league baseball game because it’s less expensive but pretends it’s because these players are playing for love of the game.
College football fans are thrilled this week that their game is back. But the true football fan, the one who values competence over dumb luck, knows we are weeks away from real football coming back. Do not be tempted or fooled. Soon enough, grown men wise in the ways of the gridiron will return to marvel us with displays of marvelous ability and acuity.
To those who enjoy the fumbling fecundity of kids still on their parents’ health care plans accidentally scoring touchdowns, well, I don’t know what to say. But I rest assured in the fact that the real deal is just around the corner. The NFL, that jewel of the sports world, will be back soon to enrapture us all with its expertise. This should give the right-minded joy, while the wrong minded cling to their outdated, boring, half of a sport.
Here endeth the rant.