There’s no doubting the NFL’s popularity. There’s no stopping an entity syndicated columnist Norman Chad once described as “the fourth branch of government.” But college football is better.
Pro football takes a wrecking ball to historic venues. College football embraces them. The college game experiences record audiences. The pro game suffers in the court of public opinion. College football is also a better entertainment product. Just ask the entertainment capital of the world.
UCLA and USC have thrived since pro football left Los Angeles over 20 years ago. Pete Carroll’s great USC teams achieved a popularity reserved for movie stars. Last year’s Bruins set UCLA attendance records. A place that proved too cool for the Raiders and Rams will forever support its beloved college teams.
Threats to move without a taxpayer-subsidized stadium don’t exist in college football. Here are a few more reasons why I’ll always prefer Saturdays over Sundays.
- The just-concluded College Football Playoff was played in a stadium packed to the gills with team colors of Alabama and Clemson. The Super Bowl takes place in a stadium in which corporate executives and millionaire hangers-on vastly outnumber actual football fans.
- NFL rivalries rise and fall depending on teams’ places in the standings. College rivalries (Army/Navy, Cal/Stanford, Alabama/Auburn, Michigan/Ohio State, etc.) have stood for generations. The games will always matter, no matter what the records of the two teams are.
- Can you imagine the NFL without fantasy football? Can you imagine the college game ever needing fantasy football? If fantasy football disappeared, the NFL would suffer a huge blow to its popularity. College football’s popularity is soaring without a fantasy game in sight.
- All you need to know about the contrast between the atmospheres of the two levels, courtesy of former Los Angeles Times writer Chris Dufresne. He covered the Miami Hurricanes’ upset of Florida State in 2000 at the Orange Bowl. The next day, he sat in a hermetically sealed press box for a Dolphins game.
“It was like being in an accounting office,” he said. “That’s the difference between college and the NFL. Yesterday they were tearing the goalposts down at the Orange Bowl. Now we’re in an accounting office.”
- College football is perfectly content to include an eight-month offseason. The NFL is around so much, it needs a restraining order.
League executives moved the Super Bowl from January to February. They extended the draft from a one-day event to a weekend-long saga. The start dates of free agency, mini-camp and training camp – not to mention the day when each team’s schedule gets announced – have all evolved into front-page news. Enough is enough.
- College teams change their uniforms to suit the tastes of teenagers. NFL teams change their uniforms to suit the needs of grown adult fans who want to dress like teenagers.
Even Oregon laughs at what the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns wear on gameday.
- When NFL teams play in college stadiums, Vikings fans get treated to the first outdoor playoff game in Minnesota since 1976. When college teams play in NFL stadiums (like when Syracuse plays in Met Life Stadium), it’s an invitation to stay home.
- NFL teams treat meaningless exhibition games as excuses to charge fans full price for tickets, parking and concessions. At its spring game, Nebraska found an excuse to give 7-year-old cancer survivor the thrill of a lifetime.
- The NFL’s preseason games arrive earlier and earlier every year. Or so it seems. If it’s August, and I’m watching the Giants and Cardinals, Madison Bumgarner better be on the mound against Yadier Molina.
- In Seattle, CenturyLink Field is lauded for its college atmosphere. The Seahawks’ home venue hosts a weekly cauldron of noise and team spirit.
- At Michigan, former athletic director Dave Brandon introduced a pro football-inspired atmosphere – Beyonce, jet flyovers, music piped in over the stadium public address system – to Wolverine home games. The policies so alienated fans, Brandon was fired in 2014 amid a massive revolt from Michigan fans.
- The Seahawks’ environment may be original. Their “12th Man” brand is not. Texas A&M trademarked the phrase in 1990, nearly 70 years after the Aggies’ football team originated the term. Only an out-of-court settlement achieved between the two sides allows Seattle to use the term on a limited basis.
- College football Saturdays are buffets. Pro football Sundays are set menus. The airwaves feature over a dozen collegiate games between the early morning and late evening. Unless you spend hundreds of extra dollars, your Sunday viewing experience includes four games maximum.
- College football sidelines: Mascots and cheerleaders performing in unison to music provided by the marching bands, all combining for a largely wholesome spectacle. Pro football sidelines: Cheerleaders who give the term “she blinded me with science” a whole new meaning.
- Pro football responds to scientific advice by denying the game’s link to traumatic brain injuries. At the University of Florida, scientific advice – combined with a partnership with the football team – led to the invention of Gatorade.
- The 2016 Rose Bowl: Over 93,000 fans, zero arrests. Last weekend’s Wild Card game between the Steelers and Bengals: At least six arrests.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!