Que Sarah, Sarah

Sunday, November 11, 2007

College Football v. NFL - Part 2


College Football v. NFL - Part II of II

By Paul M. Banks (college) and Sarah Spain (NFL-bold)

We know you've all had this argument before: at the sports bar, during holiday parties, at the tailgate. In autumn, some people look forward to Saturdays each week, others count down the days till Sunday. Now the debate hits S&PCB...

The Al Bundy/Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite factor

"I scored five touchdowns in the state championship game"
--Al Bundy, Married With Children

The simpler offenses and wide open jersey numbering system makes the game much more appealing to a larger audience. In America, the "free market" "deregulation" and "democracy" are sacrosanct. Wide receivers and running backs should all be able to choose whatever numbers they want; unlike the Fascist NFL numbering system. Seeing the playmakers in single digit numbers is really cool because this helps us former players reminisce about our high school (as Bruce Springsteen would say) glory days. Watching Illinois' top rushing attack this season reminds me of another athlete wearing a blue and orange 5. (OK, not really. Rashard Mendenhall was never as often-injured or as low on his team's depth chart as I was.)

When I saw We are Marshall, I laughed hysterically at the scene where the coach mentions what a simple offense the veer is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veer

It reminded me of a week in practice back in 1995 when I ran Thornwood high school's offense on scout team. I thought it was the most primitive offense I've ever seen. I learned the entire playbook overnight! This is an example of why college football features more systems and formations that former players and more fans can relate to. They saw the exact same thing in high school. We don't get to see this part of the game much in the NFL.

Numbers, schmumbers. I was 23 in all my sports and I love to see Hester and Jordan dominate, but I'd never consider the number connection to be anywhere near the top of the list of reasons why I love the NFL. I get the appeal of all levels of sport but nothing can compare to watching the best there is. When I want to remember how it feels to completely dominate, I just whoop on some short dudes at the playground. : )

When you get down to it, everyone wants to watch the BEST of the best. The NFL features the fastest, strongest, hardest hitting, biggest guys in the world. Sure, it's nice to watch a game and be able to pick out offenses you ran, but the real excitement is seeing guys do things you could NEVER do. Watching Hester burn a whole field of pro players is even more exciting than watching him burn a field of college guys, many of whom could never compete in the NFL. Sure, high school and college are still fun to watch (especially when you wanna re-live the glory days!) but nothing can compare to watching the best.

Purity: more about the game than being an athletic mercenary

-OK, we all know about the corruption beneath the surface in the lives of college athletes, but we don't discuss it openly. It isn't exactly helped by news items like the Colorado program's "prostitution slush fund," but like Wham told us in their hit song "Careless Whisper" -"there's no comfort in the truth, pain is all you'll find." Exhibit A of this maxim is the negative PR this past off season concerning NFL players. The '07 NFL off season news cycle greatly overshadowed the illegal activities in the college game. Pac Man, Vick and other malfeasants at their level would likely be dismissed from their program in college without being given multiple chances; even if they went to Miami or Florida State. Yes, Roger Goodell has gotten more hard line, but the fact that he has to displays how much more criminal activity truly exists in the professional ranks.

Also, there are no training camp holdouts or franchise tag related negotiation issues. It's more about the love of the game and loyalty to the team. Especially when you subtract the distractions of monetary bonuses earned from individual statistical benchmarks.

While the NFL has its issues, part of the reason the issues are more prevalent is because these are adults, with all the issues and responsibilities of adults. College players have everything planned out for them--practice, class, study hall, curfew, etc. Sure, you can get into a little trouble in college if you don't like authority, but pulling a Marcus Vick is just pathetic when your life isn't that complicated. Once you're in the pros and football is your job, it just gets easier to get caught up in the money, the hos, paying bills, taking care of kids, families, etc. It's not right either way, and neither set of players has an excuse, but for me it's much more upsetting to see college kids acting out. Let's agree that it's a tie on this one--I hate watching talent go to waste because players just can't get their sh*t together off the field.

The love of the game idea is a nice sentiment, but I don't think the argument is as viable now. Sure, players at smaller colleges are in it for the love of the game. One of my football player friends at Cornell was trying to go pro, but for the most part the guys were playing because they couldn't imagine NOT playing. These big college programs are getting to be more and more like pro teams now, though. You hate to see what coaches and programs are willing to do under the table to get the big recruits coming out of high school. If you're a 17 year old kid and you're already exposed to that side of the "business" it's hard to view football as just a game you love.

Players switch teams, sit out a year, ask for release, take money under the table, and fight it out for a small number of scholarships. All these issues are just like franchise tags, holdouts, etc. in the pros, they just aren't as closely covered by the media. And regardless of what others may think, I don't think all pro football players lose their love of the game just because they make it to the big leagues. If they're the kind of guy that's gonna take plays off and only kick it in when their contract is up, then they've probably already lost that love in college or earlier. Take Jamarcus Russell. I'm sure people would attribute the effort he gave in college to a love of the game but there's no way he suddenly flipped a switch and became money-hungry right when he hit the NFL. Obviously, the guy was about dollar bills, not loyalty, and now he's screwed the Raiders into starting Josh McCown. There are always gonna be guys--on all levels--who don't love the game enough, but there's also gonna be guys like Favre that'll never lose their childlike joy for the game of football. That's something even Packer-haters can love.

The Postseason

Uhuummmmm..well...yeah, I'm just going to go ahead and concede this one to you. Everyone realizes that 90% of the bowl games are just glorified corporate outings where someone also invited two college football teams. Having stadiums named after a multinational money making machine is one thing, replacing the game's actual name with that of the brand seeking more publicity is indefensible. (It will ALWAYS be the Citrus Bowl to me, not the Capital One Bowl)

Beyond indefensible is the BCS's BS. When undefeated teams get shut out of playing for the title, (like Auburn and Boise St. have recently) everyone loses. The win-or-go-home mid-winter tournament that is the NFL playoffs is truly the pinnacle of professional sports.

You nailed it. BCS = BS and lame-named bowls = consolation prizes for losers. Yeah, it's nice to watch your team in a post-season game, even if their season was a disappointment, but it's sorta like getting hyped up for the 3rd place match in a tourney when you know the better teams are in the Championship. As an NFL fan, it hurts if your team isn't in the Super Bowl, but losing in the NFL playoffs is more respectable than winning some consolation no-name bowl. The Super Bowl is it. You can't deny that that ONE game, ONCE a year, for all the marbles, featuring the greatest players in the world, is the greatest spectacle in sport.


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