College Football is Where it’s At
Pro ball just doesn’t compare anymore
Published: Monday, September 9, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 9, 2013 17:09
It’s back. After three months of enduring nothing but hockey and basketball (yawn) and a lazy, relaxing summer of baseball, football is back in town. We’re two weeks into the NCAA season, and week one of the NFL season wraps up tonight. From now til Christmas, every other Saturday is cleared for Bison football on the schedules of every fan in town, and homework on Sunday nights will be done in the living room, not the library.
I’ve loved football my whole life. My dad coached the high school team where I grew up, and eventually coached me in junior high later on. I played football from 7th through 12th grade, like all the other men in my family – grandpa, dad, uncle, brother, and cousins. I watched my first NFL game at age 6 – Super Bowl XXXI, when the Brett Favre and the Packers trumped Drew Bledsoe and the Patriots at the Superdome.
Having such an early exposure to football definitely impacted my life. Though a born and raised Minnesotan, watching that first Packers victory led me to cheer for the Packers from there on in. Leading to, as you may have guessed, much derision from friends, family, teachers, and even complete strangers. My roommates won’t let it go to this day – but maybe that’s only because I rubbed the Packers’ playoff victory over the Vikings into their faces a little too hard last January.
Yet, focusing all of my football fandom on the NFL over the years has left me somewhat burned out, even disillusioned about professional football. After coming to NDSU and starting to get really into Bison football, my attention began to drift from the NFL to the NCAA. I started watching more Big-10 games than NFC North games. More Pac-12 than AFC West.
And now, I’m about finished with the NFL. I don’t care that Aaron Hernandez is going to jail. I don’t care about player salaries (I mean really, after last Thursday’s quarterback performance, who can take them seriously?). It’s gotten to the point where I only watch games because of my fantasy team, and because I can’t let the Packers go.
NCAA football is just more exciting. It’s more dynamic, less methodical. There’s more passion, less antics. More team, less individual (a certain Texas A&M quarterback excluded). More fight song, less halftime show. More student section, less depressed-suburban-dad-man-cave. It’s all about the players, and not (well, at least less) about the money.
The NFL will never be able to replicate what the NCAA has to offer. And, oddly enough, it’s probably because professional ball players are just too good to be that exciting. The teams are too evenly matched. The players are too mentally stable. Big comebacks and monster collapses are rare in the NFL, but they happen every week in the NCAA. Just like college life, college football is always fresh, exciting, and wild. And, just like adult life, professional football is droll, even predictable.
And that’s the beauty of college football. You just can’t predict it. Who would have seen a true freshman stepping in at quarterback for California and throwing for over 400 yards against No. 22 Northwestern? Who saw 11 FCS teams besting their FBS foes in one week – not the least of which was our own NDSU Bison?
So for everyone who adores the NFL but completely ignores the NCAA, I urge you to try some Saturday football. Just a couple games – good games too, as I’m sure the Oregon-Nicholls State games aren’t going to garner your interest – and I promise you’ll be hooked.
College football will draw you in. The tradition, the pageantry, the rivalry. We’re talking about Ohio State – Michigan, California – Stanford, Florida – Miami, Texas – Oklahoma, Harvard – Yale. There isn’t a single NFL rivalry as delicious, as savory, as culturally defining as these. So when you’re at the Bison game next Saturday, or watching it at the bar, or at home, stand up and cheer when the Herd thunders onto the field, and sing along with the Pride of North Dakota. You’re part of a tradition richer than anything that can be bought by all the money in the NFL.
Nathan is a senior majoring in landscape architecture. Follow him on twitter @nwstottler.