Granted, not everyone does. But college football brings with it aspects that simply are not found in professional football, and they are the reasons I like it. And non-Americans often wonder why in the world we get so wrapped up in this. Well…
- 98% of players will never sign seven-figure contracts. Many are playing to get college educations, and some play and pay their own way. When I think of what they go through, that’s incredible.
- A lot of otherwise smart people from lousy backgrounds get chances to get their heads on straight, become educated, experience a different world, have better lives.
- College football teams do not hold their cities for ransom. The Seahawks might threaten to move away one day if Seattle doesn’t build them an even fancier stadium. The Washington Huskies are not leaving Seattle, period.
- Every region of this nation save Alaska has nearby college football, a rallying point for local interest and pride.
- Each school has its own set of unifying traditions that make participation more fun, from Texas A&M’s all-male yell leaders to the Stanford Band to the Gator chomp. Archaic fight songs, unofficial spirit songs, chants, clothing choices, and so much more.
- One can have a whole bunch of teams one likes, and a whole bunch one just loathes.
- It’s a better way to channel some old ghosts: rivalry. Most people outside Kansas and Missouri, for example, do not know that our states once fought a terrible war, one that had gone on seven years before the Civil War began, with numerous atrocities and reprisals on both sides. The ghosts still stir a bit, but the annual rivalry matchup gives a way to channel and express that–and a way to remind ourselves that this is a much better way to express it than what we did in the 1850s, which was arson, rustling, robbery, rape, torture and murder.
- It pays the way for most of the other sports. Football revenue makes it possible to have men’s golf, women’s tennis, women’s soccer, etc. Yes, college football is business–but it’s a business that provides lots of ways to be a college athlete, most of them money-losers for the school.
- College football is diverse and unpredictable. So many different styles of play, and with amateur players, so many comical and unexpected results. Weird stuff happens in college ball.
- Specialty schools with appeal for unique reasons: military academies, religious schools, prestigious academic schools, and so on. Every LDS person who wishes can take pride in BYU football; same for Roman Catholics and Notre Dame. The whole Navy cares about Navy football. And those who admire outstanding academics must surely respect Stanford and Yale.
In all these areas, college football just pushes the professional version into a wastewater lagoon.