Wednesday, March 18, 2009

65 reasons to love college football

Maybe I'm alone here, but I get a bit annoyed when everyone I know suddenly becomes a college basketball expert during the third week in March, discussing the likelihood of a potential Syracuse-North Carolina matchup in the Midwest Regional finals despite probably having watched less than 60 minutes of college basketball all season and not being able to name more than two starters on any team in the country.

No one really cares, of course. If not for office pools, how many of those people would even be able to identify the No. 1 team in the country? I'm guessing less than half.

It's not that the NCAA tournament isn't an amazing event with more drama than just about any other postseason in sports -- there's little argument about that. And the fact that every team that's truly deserving (along with many teams that aren't) gets to play for a title ... well, that alone gives us 65 good reasons to get excited.

I guess I've just always had a hard time fully investing myself in something with a regular season that's barely relevant, with players no one knows because by the time they're good, they're gone. Strangely, March Madness always gets me thinking not about basketball, but about college football and how much I appreciate everything about it and how it's become a day-in, day-out part of my life ... hell, that's the whole reason this blog exists.

It's not just about the players or the teams or my lifelong obsession with Michigan, of course; there's so much more, I spent an hour just trying to figure out how to summarize it. And then I gave up; there's just too much.

So in an NCAA tourney-inspired entry, here are the top 65 reasons I love college football:

65. Floyd of Rosedale. Minnesota and Iowa play for a bronze pig. Enough said.

64. Sea of Red. A great symbol of fan support and unity.

63. Penn State's uniforms. Pure, blue-on-white simplicity.

62. Helmet stickers. What else can define greatness like reward stickers?

61. Touchdown Jesus. Obviously.

60. Big East games on Thursday night. Who wants to wait a full seven days?

59. MAC games on Wednesday night. Sometimes, I just can't make it those extra 24 hours.

58. Recruiting. I'm not sure if the interest level is good or bad for the high school kids, but the vast expanse of information made available over the past few years has given us a whole new reason to get excited in the offseason.

57. Northwestern. I have nothing but admiration for a team with little athletic talent that still competes with the Big Ten's best on a regular basis.

56. The Coliseum. The L.A. atmosphere doesn't do it any favors, but the tradition and history just drip from the signature arches behind the east endzone.

55. Chief Osceola. Any pregame ritual that includes a flaming spear is good enough for me.

54. Oregon's apparel. Yeah, it's a little ridiculous. But I admire a program that's willing to say, "F it, let's just do something fun."

53. "Rudy." Even if the real story isn't quite as inspirational as the movie.

52. The Jeweled Shillelagh. The trophy just adds to the beauty of USC-Notre Dame.

51. Mascots. Sparty. Herbie Husker. Ralphie. Uga. I could go on, but there's no need.

50. Little Brown Jug. A historical oddity that makes Michigan-Minnesota meaningful despite its lopsided nature.

49. Florida State-Miami. It's lost a little luster recently but is still one of the best early-season matchups.

48. Boise State's blue turf. Needs no explanation.

47. Michigan's "M Club" banner. One of the greatest entrances to one of the greatest fight songs.

46. Autzen Stadium. There's no way 55,000 people should be able to make that much noise.

45. USC's song girls. Photo provided.

44. Texas A&M's yell practice. Who needs cheerleaders when half the stadium is already prepared?

43. Pass-happy coaches. Watching Texas Tech or Hawaii put it in the air 70 times is always an enjoyable experience.

42. The spread option. There are countless variations now, but the West Virginia version run by Pat White and the Utah version run by Alex Smith give us an idea of what this offense is supposed to look like.

41. The triple-option. College football's staple offense for 100 years still works wonders when executed correctly.

40. Quarterbacks who can't throw. Tommie Frazier, Eric Crouch and Major Harris were never going to make it as QBs in the NFL, but that didn't make them any less great in college.

39. BCS games. The system itself might be a mess, but it gives us the consistently excellent top-10 matchups we so rarely see in the regular season.

38. The playoff debate. An argument over the details of a completely hypothetical scenario has never gone on for so long.

37. Game-ending field goals (or misses). Countless otherwise-anonymous walk-on kickers (I'm talking about you, Philip Brabbs and David Gordon) have cemented their place in history with one kick.

36. Harvard-Yale. They don't give out scholarships and it's mostly irrelevant at a national level, but history wins out. "The Game" also gave us arguably the best sports headline ever: "Harvard beats Yale, 29-29."

35. "Play like a champion today." What can I say? I'm a sucker for tradition.

34. Innovators. Urban Meyer, Rich Rodriguez, Steve Spurrier ... these guys have helped shape the game we see today.

33. Institutions. Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden have been coaching at Penn State and Florida State, respectively, for 92 years. Think about that.

32. "The Play." You know which one.

31. Big Ten linebackers. J Leman's photo tells the story. And I don't know where Penn State and Ohio State keep their linebacker cloning labs, but I want one.

30. Blackshirts. Nebraska defenders earn their honor the old-fashioned way.

29. Night games at Virginia Tech. The atmosphere under the lights at Lane Stadium just can't be replicated.

28. Alabama's helmets. So simple, yet so recognizable.

27. Penn State's "Whiteout." An incredible sight.

26. The Swamp. It might not be the biggest and it might not be the loudest, but there's a reason (besides Tim Tebow) that it's so fuckin' hard to win at Florida.

25. "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." No, I don't care that the SEC managed to get the nickname removed. If it's Florida and Georgia, it's a party.

24. Captains. It's camaraderie at its finest when team leaders, linked arm-in-arm, walk to midfield for the coin toss.

23. Polls. Is it crazy to determine a national champion by a vote? Maybe. But I get up every Sunday morning in the fall anxiously awaiting the results.

22. 2007 Fiesta Bowl. One of the greatest games I've ever seen, with every ridiculous scenario you could ask for (and a marriage proposal to cap it off).

21. Red River Rivalry. Great history, great uniforms, elite teams ... and they play the game at the freakin' Texas state fair.

20. The Big House. 111,000 people every Saturday.

19. Seniors. My biggest complaint about college basketball is that nobody who's any good sticks around for more than a year or two. But in football, we're lucky enough to be guaranteed three years (and often get four) from even our greatest players.

18. Howard's Rock. The rock's actual history is a little disappointing, but there's a reason Clemson's run down the hill has been called "the most exciting 25 seconds in college football" (although that came from Brent Musberger, so take it with a pound of salt).

17. Michigan's winged helmets. There's probably not be a more identifiable headpiece in all of sports, with the possible exception of ...

16. Notre Dame's gold. The painting of the helmets -- with real gold included -- is one of the coolest traditions in sports.

15. Script Ohio. I don't know if Ohio State's is "The Best Damn Band in the Land," but the fact that the band's signature formation may be more recognizable than anything about the football team has to count for something.

14. Hail Marys. Doug Flutie. Kordell Stewart. Those guys were great college players, but each will be remembered forever for one huge throw.

13. Marching bands.
If you've never been entertained at halftime of a Wisconsin or Michigan game, you've never enjoyed the full college football experience. And without marching bands, we wouldn't have ...

12. Fight songs. From "Hail to the Victors" to "Victory March" to "On Wisconsin" to "Rambling Wreck."

11. Year-round bragging rights. You have no idea how much it pains me to see the Columbus Dispatch sports page and its running count of the number of days since Michigan's last win over Ohio State. For the record, it stands at 1,948.

10. Tailgating. Is there a better way to spend a Saturday? (That's a rhetorical question.)

9. Rose Bowl. "The grandaddy of 'em all."

8. Keith Jackson. If someone ever puts together a video of my life, I want it narrated by this guy.

7. Traditions. This list of full of traditions already, but there are so many little things that add history to a program or a venue (War Eagle, Running through the "T", Michigan's #1 jersey, etc.)

6. Heisman Trophy. The most recognized individual award in sports.

5. The Iron Bowl. I'm not sure if hatred is the right word for Alabama-Auburn, but I can't think of anything stronger.

4. Regular-season intensity. Everyone wants a playoff, but I will always point out that there's no regular season like college football's. Every game is huge, and that's something I never want to lose.

3. Michigan-Ohio State. I'm probably a little biased, but there's a reason this game is consistently ranked as the best rivalry in college football (if not sports as a whole).

2. Army-Navy. The president shows up, the seniors are on the verge of deployment, they sing the fight songs of BOTH teams after the game ... and I get goosebumps. If I could go to only one more football game in my life, it'd be this one.

1. Saturdays in the fall. You wake up and throw on a sweatshirt, maybe an old pair of jeans. You head outside into the crisp air, with a light breeze, and you make your way down to the stadium with thousands of others through the changing colors. The tension is building, but it goes unspoken outside of a few chants and cheers, possibly with the marching band playing in the distance. Kickoff is approaching ...

It's a Saturday in the fall, and there's absolutely nothing else like it. It's what I live for.

1 comment:

Mindy said...

What's so funny about Oregon uniforms?