Because it’s not American politics, that’s why.
OK, so you really don’t need to read the rest of this column. I asked a question in the headline, I answered that question perfectly in the first sentence.
My work here is done.
But just in case you’re one of those odd-balls who does not properly appreciate college football – perhaps you were born on a desolate Pacific island, somehow grew up without a television cabinet/set in your house in the 1960s or were simply dropped on your head at an early age – I am here to help.
Actually, if you were dropped on your head, you are likely a Nebraska Cornhusker fan and someone else is reading this column to you.
But if it is Saturday afternoon and there are dozens of college football games on TV, I’m watching as many as three of them at one time – two on the television screen and one or two more on various tablets and computers. This new tech trick has made me the king of throwing away Saturday afternoons on my block.
There are plenty of things which are not perfect about college football – concussion concerns, big money taking over the sport, student-athletes not really being students and Nebraska Cornhusker fans wearing those God-forsaken red & white striped overalls – and I understand each of those black marks on the game.
However, I tend to find that on Saturday mornings after standing on the sidelines for three hours at a high school football game (Go Eagles!) and a long week of work, I’m beat. Dead tired. Ready to be “couched” for a day. For me, college football provides the right combination of football, cheering for your schools, not doing a dad-blamed thing and napping all at the same time.
Did you catch that?
I said, “cheering for your schools,” as in multiple favorites.
Sure – I can cheer for more than one team and have multiple reasons:
• The University of Arkansas Razorbacks, my school. Love ’em when they’re great, love ’em when their awful. Unfortunately, the Hogs can somehow find a way to be great and awful on the same play – which is why they’ve lost a couple of games this year. Woo! Pig! Sooiiee!
• The Michigan Wolverines, where my daughter attended graduate school – Go Blue!
• Clemson Tigers, a newcomer to my fan list last year – which was convenient as the Tigers went all the way to the national championship game. Clemson is where my grandson’s dad picks up a paycheck as a professor – so, yep, I’m a fan.
But college football is as much fun for the rivalries as anything. Really fun.
For instance, every time I wear my orange Clemson hat to work, my co-worker, Stacy, wants to set it on fire. While I’m wearing it.
Stacy is a South Carolina Gamecocks (or, Chickenhawks as I call them) fan and her school has a deeply ingrained, foam-at-the-mouth, in-state rivalry with Clemson.
Then there’s Nebraska. BLECH!
I went to a high school of about 850 students. One guy once professed to be a Nebraska fan. His body was never found.
So, yeah. The rivalries can be serious – but mostly they’re fun. Even if you have to explain the jokes to those Cornhuskers.
College football has become too “big money” with not enough benchmarks put in play to make sure athletes who won’t go on to NFL careers are getting an education that will provide them a living after college. With the millions being made by so many, the young men – kids really – on the field are owed that much.
But here is why college football is important:
In the first game of this season, in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Cornhuskers failed to make a first down on their opening drive. Eleven Cornhuskers trotted off the field and 10 players on the punting team ran onto the field. The Nebraska team lined up without a punter, honoring their teammate and punter Sam Folz who was killed in a car wreck this past summer.
The Cornhusker players stood, frozen in contemplation of how short life can be. The ball was not snapped and, as the crowd cheered for the moment, the officials threw a penalty flag for a delay of game penalty.
To their everlasting credit, the visiting San Jose Bulldogs refused the penalty. Then the crowd cheered the visiting team, too.
More recently, the Cornhuskers played Illinois and in a pre-game ceremony, Illini captains presented the Cornhuskers captains with an Illinois jersey No. 27 – Folz’s number at Nebraska – signed by each player. A simple token from the Illinois players to let the Cornhuskers know they were thinking of them.
I will never cheer for the Cornhuskers. I will always poke fun at a few Husker friends I know and take their jabs at my Hogs with a smile. I will also always respect the Nebraska team, its traditions and its fans.
Why do I watch college football?
Because through all of its faults and foibles, it brings out some of the best America has to offer. And, like I said, that is nothing like the current state of American politics.
By Bruce Wallace