I love College Football

3 Oct

We spent a marvelous weekend in Champaign IL visiting our son at University of IL, and seeing the Illini play the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday.  Having grown up deep in the heart of Iowa, with no professional sports around, college football was the religion drummed into me since my early days, and it was so much fun to relive the excitement.  Here’s the best things I love about college football Saturdays:

1) The pure excitement of it – yes, pro fans are rabid and mad too, but the excitement seems so much more pure with college ball than pro ball.  Entire stadiums filled with the team’s colors.  Entire stadiums singing the loyalty song at the top of their lungs, or participating in a unison chant (ILL-INI, etc.), and even the intensity of the athletes themselves.  Yes, there are questions about “are college athletes pros, or should they be paid” – the reality is all of them are seeking something bigger and greater than just making sure they have their contract.  There is much more pure intensity.

2) Tailgating:  Again, pro football also has tailgating, but … I love college football and tailgating seems like it is endemic to the sport.  Whether a simple beer and a brat, or an elaborate setup with residential-sized grills banging out filet mignon, tailgating is part of the sport.

3) The Students – this is the key difference in college ball.  Every college team has their student section packed with young kids who are there for one reason only – to cheer on their school to victory.  The student section at Iowa when I was there took up the entire north endzone, plus the first section on the west side of the stadium.  At Memorial Stadium in Champaign, it is the north end zone (called the “Block I”), plus an entire section of the east side.  Every kid dressed in orange, all screaming at the tops of their lungs.  It’s the “12th man” of the sport.

4) The rivalrys and the loyalty.  Pro teams are generally defined by where you live, but you never lose the loyalty to your alma mater – I don’t live near Iowa City and haven’t been to an Iowa game since 1991, but I still bleed black and gold, although now I put on the Orange and Blue for Illinois as well.

5) Related to Rivalrys and Loyalty, college ball does draw a different crowd to the games than the crowds you get at pro games.  Because colleges tend to be concentrated in smaller cities, they draw from around their area for fans, and often that’s the only game in town for these folks – my experience growing up is a great example.  While we enjoyed rooting for the Vikings and the Chiefs living in Iowa, reality was that OUR team was the Hawkeyes.  At the tailgate this Saturday, there was a large tailgate next to us all from the area around Effingham, IL – Effingham is close to nothing other than Champaign, and therefore, these folks are ILLINI fans, first and foremost.

I could go on and on, but there you have it.  At Saturday’s game, I felt more pure excitement and got so completely into the game, just like the old days of going to Hawkeye games.  May have to start going to those again now that the kids are older.

As you were,

Stew

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One Response to “I love College Football”

  1. carpetbagger October 13, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    I love college football, too. Much more than pro. Same with basketball. The pros may be superior athletes, but I also love the unpredictability of what a 19-year-old kid will do with 100,000 people screaming at them, let alone the glare of the television cameras. What will they do with the hopes and dreams of an entire state riding on their effort? I like that kind of drama much better than whether Tom Brady and the Patriots will beat the Jets this week.

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