I have a challenge for you, my friends. Find a game, any game; preferably one where there is a winner, a loser, and a score. Then, find several friends, and play this game; sometimes against each other, sometimes not. After a pre-determined number of games, feed all of the game information, such as scores and records, into a computer, and then let that computer determine who the real winner is. Once it makes its determination, you have to accept it.
There will not be a final “Championship” game or head to head match up against the two best. No, leave the results up to a computer, which when fed some information, completes its job of spitting out a winner; a new form of finality in a digital age. Even if you truly love the GAME itself, can you love this process?
I have always been a “football” fan. I have loved and rooted for the Washington Professional Football Team (stated in approved PC language as to not offend. I am PRO name change, by the way). I have attended games, played in games, thrown footballs at the beach, in the front yard, and even off of a mountain. I love football. But, until just this year, I have despised COLLEGE football.
I refused, absolutely refused, to invest my “fandom” into anything sports related in which either a computer, coaches, or some variation there of tells me who the champion is. I could not wrap the idea around my tiny little brain that a sport, played on a field with men battling men for victory, was determined in a voting booth, or worse yet, a computer. And until 2014, that was the case. So, I was out. I passed on College Football.
The argument to me has always been that College Football was a better version than the pro model. That it had more heart. That it had more character. That the product on the field was often better. That it just MEANT more. I would nod my head, smile, and simply ask why the #1 team did not play the #2 team to see who the best was. No response was needed, really.
But now, the College Football Playoff (CFP) has arrived, been successful, and allowed this football junky to immerse himself fully in the luscious waters of collegiate pigskin. And oh, what a refreshing pool it is!
As Ohio State wrapped up its improbably march, behind its 3rd string quarterback, to win the first CFP Championship, I made the conscious decision that it was time. So, as I am an avid Kentucky basketball fan, I thrust myself into Kentucky football. There is nothing I despise more than the fair-weather fan who bounces from school to school and sport to sport, so my allegiance held firm despite their less than stellar football heritage.
And while I can certainly wax poetic about Kentucky’s growing chances in the powerful SEC, I inhaled deeply of the waters of college football to absorb all of the facets of the game. I have watched the all-powerful Ohio State, as it rolls steadily towards another national championship. I studied the game work of Trevone Boykin, the QB from TCU who I fully expect (and am absolutely against) my beloved Washington drafting at the end of the year. Chubb, Henry, Elliot, Fournette; these are all names in my mental Rolodex that would have meant nothing last year.
But let me tell what I have really found. College football has heart. The whiny complaining millionaire of the pros are gone, and in their stead stands an undersized 6’1” middle linebacker, bleeding from cuts on his face, sweat pouring off his body, willingly laying his body at the altar of sacrifice for his team. His effort FAR exceeds his talent, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.
And odds are, he’s going to have to use that Communications degree, because his chances of playing football beyond his 4 years in college are pretty slim. Money motivates the pros. However, in college, it is heart, determination, and pride.
Speaking of pride, I had no idea what true team pride was. I have Washington jerseys; quite a few in fact. But never, ever, EVER have I seen displays of fandom like college. Stadiums seating 100,000+ fans, all dressed in corresponding colors to produce the biggest, baddest, craziest (and ugliest, but I digress) checkerboard I have ever seen. It was inspiring! The crowds are so vibrant, that you can actually FEEL the emotion coming through the screen. The sound is thunderous! Sure, there are drunk frat boys, but beyond that are normal people who are fully invested in their SCHOOL!
To be frank, my intentions were to enjoy college football, like one enjoys John Grisham novels: enjoyable, entertaining, and ultimately easy to set aside at the whim of anything else. I had no way of knowing or preparing for what I have found: football in its purest form. Naturally the talent level is below that of the professional levels. But give me heart, determination, and pride over ego and pocket books any day of the week.
So I urge you to take a dip into the inviting pool of college football. Pick a school, but please don’t be a bandwagon jumper and just pick the latest champion. Try to find a real attachment. Read a few blogs or websites run by FANS. Sign up for a few twitter feeds. Periscope a bit. Watch a game or two. Maybe take a journey to watch one live. Maybe we’ll bump into each other. Maybe I’ll share my season tickets with you.
And watch yourself fall helplessly into the deep end of college football pool. Allow it to surround you, engulf you, and maybe even submerge you. But embrace it, enjoy it, and remember, above all other things: GO BIG BLUE!