I have a lot of respect for my fellow Federalist writer, David Marcus. But I take issue with his recent article panning college football. The college football season is here, and I simply can’t let our readers think Dave’s piece represents the rest of us Federalist writers. Contrary to Dave’s take, I love college football, because it is good football and in many ways superior to National Football League games.
College Football Games Are Interesting and Meaningful
College football has more meaningful games than the NFL. I feel confident saying the Arizona Cardinals will not play a meaningful game this year. Cleveland hasn’t played a meaningful game in the better part of a decade. The poor Detroit Lions fans have had whole generations born, grow up, and wither away without seeing their team play meaningful football. By contrast, every college football team will play a meaningful game this year.
Unlike the NFL, the entirety of the regular college football season feels like a playoff — a single loss may derail the chance at a championship. Even for schools without a powerful team, there is sure to be a rivalry that becomes the focus of the entire year.
Take, for instance, the rivalry between small schools Wabash College and DePauw University in Indiana. 2019 will mark the 126th battle of their rivalry. The winner will receive the 300-pound Monon Bell and, more importantly, the winner will maintain bragging rights for the rest of the year.
Speaking of rivalry, the Army versus Navy rivalry is legendary. After the Navy won in 1893, President Grover Cleveland had to call a Cabinet meeting in February 1894, during which he asked both Secretary of the Navy Hilary A. Herbert and Secretary of War Daniel S. Lamont to tone the rivalry down a few notches.
David may take issue with the style of play, but a simple rule difference drives a greater and more interesting variation within the game. With the wider hash marks, college football puts a greater premium on highlighting the best athletes.
Coaches’ ingenuity in creating schemes leads to offenses as diverse as Mike Leach’s “air raid” offense coexisting with the “triple option” of Paul Johnson, each finding success in a different way. In contrast, the close hash marks of the pro game puts a premium on passing. As a result, every game features offenses running some variation of Don Coryell’s offense. And so it has gone on — for 40 years.
College Football Has Incredible Traditions and Community
More importantly, college football is the far superior experience for fans of football because of its greater traditions. The Air Force Falcons usually kick off their show with an impressive aircraft flyover. The University of Colorado at Boulder normally lets “Ralphie,” a 2,000-pound bison, lead the players out of the tunnel. Clemson Tigers players touch “Howard’s Rock,” a piece of quartz from Death Valley, California, before running down the hill in the east end zone. It’s said former coach Frank Howard demanded his players “to give 110 percent for the privilege to rub the rock.”
At West Point, before the game starts, spectators get to observe regiments of cadets pass and review on The Plain, the same soil George Washington once set foot on. Whenever the Army scores a touchdown, the cannon crew will add to the celebration with a volley over Lusk Reservoir near the stadium. Has any NFL team done anything remotely close to this cool?
College football brings the entire community together in ways the NFL doesn’t. Only a few of the most populous U.S. metropolises have professional football teams. Yes, fans can watch the games from the comfort of their couch if they are willing to fork over a few hundred dollars a year to their cable company or Direct TV. But most colleges and universities reside in small towns, and many of their games do not get broadcast. College football game day is a big community event. It brings rowdy young students, aging alumni, and local residents together. The atmosphere is fun.
Further, college football allows each of us to lay claim to a college team. Sure, I like to see my hometown Broncos do well, but unless you’re a member of the Bowlen family, they’re not truly your team. I imagine it’s the same with New England fans, unless you’re a Kraft. By contrast, I’m a proud graduate of the University of Wyoming (#GoWYO). I married into a Cornhusker family (#GBR). My taxes support the University of Colorado (#GoBuffs). I can confidently lay claim to each as my team.
College Football Fans Are the Best
Last but not least, college football has some of the nicest fans. No one loves college football more than Nebraska Cornhuskers fans. I know, because I married one. Since 1962, Memorial Stadium, home of the Huskers, has enjoyed 368 consecutive sellouts. According to dataomaha.com, “Nebraska’s state population is 1.882 million. During the sellout streak, Memorial Stadium’s total attendance would equal about 14.99 Nebraskas full of fans.”
On game day, Memorial Stadium becomes the state’s third-largest city. They have not sold out every game since 1962 to watch an inferior product. We’ve gone to several games in Lincoln. Everywhere my eyes could see was a sea of red, and everyone was smiling as if a festival were about to start. Even when the Huskers lost a game, fans still gave a standing ovation to the opposing team. That’s classy.
The moment that speaks the loudest about how good Husker fans are was on Nov. 3, 1990. When Kenny Walker, a defensive tackle who has been deaf since age 2, appeared on the field during senior introductions, Husker fans showed their appreciation to their beloved player by giving him thunderous applause in sign language: raising their arms and turning their hands back and forth. Fans did this on their own without anyone giving any orders or directions. Walker said later, “I saw all the hands. That was wonderful.” Can David find an NFL moment like that?
I hope everyone enjoys their college football games this weekend and this season, because college football is good football, and well worth cheering on.