Christmas in July

As agonizing as the "lull" between basketball and football seasons can be, excitement for the latter picks up in mid-July with the annual release of EA Sports' NCAA Football game.

On Monday, video game players and college football fans across the country flocked to their favorite electronics store to pick up the newest copy of the game. By the end of the day, several people will undoubtedly have completed their first season in "Dynasty Mode" which allows you to oversee every area of your favorite football program from recruiting, to academic performance, to on-field results.

Just how big is the release of this game? Over the July 4th holiday weekend, rumors began circulating around the internet that one chain had already started to sell the game, setting off a wild chain of events that led to customers cancelling their reservations for the game elsewhere, and picking up a copy from this store that was already selling it. Undoubtedly the powers that be at EA were not thrilled with this, and though the problem was corrected by week's end, several lucky gamers made off with a copy of NCAA Football 2006 in their paws.

This year's product has a few new features on it that fans both die hard and casual are sure to enjoy. In previous years, you had to do all of your recruiting in the offseason. This year, you will host recruits during the season so everything isn't done after the games are played. Also, with Heisman mode, you can create a player and watch him evolve from potential Division I recruit into a Heisman Trophy winner.

Another new feature on the new game is the studio show before each game. Studio host Brad Nessler is joined by Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso to break down the matchups before they happen. At the end of the studio show, Corso even makes his pick by putting on the mascot head of the team he chooses, just as he does every Saturday in real life.

Being a college student, video games are a way of life for me. After long day of classes and homework, my roommate and I like to put academics aside for an hour or so and battle for the bragging rights of apartment 43. Sometimes we go to extreme measures to involve ourselves fully in the game, right down to dressing like coaches with khaki pants, loafers, and a golf shirt. When the Big East officials blow a call (another life-like feature of the game) he'll hear about it the rest of the evening, and as we discuss the game after the final horn sounds, we'll refer to a blown call in coach-speak, saying things like "Officiating didn't cost us this game, but there certainly were some interesting calls that took place out there. I'll leave it at that so I don't get reprimanded, but you guys saw the same game I did."

Is it a little extreme? You bet it is. But that's life as an EA Sports NCAA Football addict. One friend of mine even had a dream about a recruiting battle he was involved in on the video game. I don't know what they put in the Kool-Aid, but the folks at EA Sports do a great job in satisfying their fan base for this game.

So, earlier this week, wives bid adieu to their husbands. I've already been at my TV set when a Mountaineer receiver gets bumped off his route, impeding his chance to catch a pass. Hearts will be filled will be filled with joy as middle aged men rip off the covers to their new games just like a kid on Christmas morning. Every addict will have a confident strut as he sits down in front of the TV to play his first game. After all, where else in life can you lead the Mountaineers to consecutive national championships, only to step down after four years to go coach the Akron Zips? It's a fantasy world, and it can take over your life. But for avid fans like myself and countless others, we wouldn't have it any other way.

Merry Christmas!

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