College football fans are some of the most loyal, passionate, hardcore fans there are on the planet. In places such as the Deep South and pretty much any part of Texas, football is a religion and the number one topic 365 days out of the year. For those of you in the regions that fit this category and all major college football fans across America, I respect you but I have to break something to you: the true entertainment is on Sundays.
I’m sure the Deep South category is appalled at the fact that anything can be more popular than their beloved Razorbacks, Volunteers, or Crimson Tide. That being said NFL waters do not run very deep in the south between teams such as Jacksonville, Tennessee, or Carolina. In football crazy towns such as Dallas and New Orleans, where you have to go blindfolded in order to avoid seeing an LSU or Texas fan every four seconds, the Cowboys and the Saints reign supreme when it comes to importance and popularity. Ask any LSU alum who hails from the Big Easy what was bigger: 2 LSU BCS Championships or the Saints winning the Super Bowl? That would be a no-brainer in favor of who dat.
NCAA fans are going to argue with things such as tradition, crowd noise, marching bands, Lee Corso, and being able to dress like JT Bowtie (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrfUKZ1BGUQ) while being accompanied by a straight 10 who is at least four points out of your league all while getting obnoxiously hammered on bourbon cheering on a bunch of fellow classmates you’ve never met before all while trying not to ruin your favorite pair of team-colored slacks.
While that sounds like a heck of a good time, there is a reason the Super Bowl’s ratings will always blow the BCS Championships’ ratings out of the water. There’s a reason that the Cowboys/Bengals preseason game was watched by three times as many viewers as the nationally televised Red Sox/Yankees game during August in a pennant race. There’s a reason why as much as you think you hate the three year daily coverage of the Brett Favre saga, you continue to watch and continue to discuss how much you hate it. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why the NFL is more popular than college football. Here are 10 of them.
1. Rules – College football is way too lenient with their rulebook. The NCAA allows only one foot to be in bounds, first downs stop the clock and there is absolutely no celebration whatsoever. A perfect example is an official throwing a flag on Washington QB Jake Locker for throwing the ball up in the air after scoring a game-tying touchdown in the last minute against a ranked and favored BYU club in 2008. The touchdown put the Huskies within one point of the Cougars but because of the 15 yard celebration penalty by Locker, the extra point attempt was blocked by BYU and the Cougars escaped Husky Stadium with a 28-27 victory.
2. Schedule – There are no gimmes in the NFL, period. The only conference that can say their conference has no gimmes is the SEC and even the mighty Crimson Tide has San Jose State, Duke, and Georgia State on their schedule in 2010. Nick Saban’s B Team would beat each one of these squads by four touchdowns without even breaking a sweat. In the NFL, every Sunday is a test and there is not a single game that can be penciled in as a W. Last season the 1-15 St. Louis Rams were one play away from defeating the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints as Mark Bulger’s game-winning TD pass fell incomplete in the end zone at the buzzer. NCAA fans will site Appalachian State as an example but what fans tend to forget is that Michigan suffered their worst home loss in the history of the program the following week as Oregon blasted the maze and blue 39-7. Also, in the NFL teams get to play each of their rivals twice a year and if the teams don’t happen to be in the same division, the NFL is going to schedule the two teams to meet. A perfect example is that the Patriots and Colts will face each other this year for the eighth straight season. One of college football’s most storied rivalries, OU/Nebraska, do not even play in the same conference and even when they did they still didn’t face each other every season.
3. Cheerleaders – In the NCAA the cheerleaders wear sweaters and long sleeves and half of them are not even girls! The NFL has professional dancers who wear close to nothing even when the temperatures are near freezing and are always facing the fans. No chants or cheers or boys in the NFL; just beautiful women getting paid to stay in shape and look good for the camera.
4. Monday Night Football – Seriously, do I really have to list reasons why MNF is better than Thursday Night football? As the ads say “Everyone watches on Monday Night”. Thursday nights are filled with teams who just want to be on television so they schedule their game for Thursday so a small percentage of the nation will get to see their school. Half of the viewers watching some midseason ACC or Big East match-up on Thursday night are watching solely because they have a gambling addiction and think they can get a jumpstart on the weekend by throwing down cash on NC State or South Florida. MNF is where the real action is and what football fan do you know that isn’t watching on Monday Night? Last but not least, could you imagine Hank Williams Jr. inviting all his rowdy friends over for Thursday Night? I didn’t think so.
5. Overtime – The sudden death system, as flawed as it may be, is a much more entertaining overtime than the college game. In the NFL the game could end on any play so every fan is constantly on the edge of their seat. Not only that, but the NFL actually plays real football with kickoffs, punts and the whole shebang. Starting on the 25 yard line is no way to play football and much less exciting. Touchdowns are not near as big of deal in the college game. Fans are much more excited on a defensive stop than they are on a 20 yard touchdown pass. Also, in the NCAA many games seem to be never ending with 5, 6, and even 7 overtimes on occasion. Now that the NFL has adjusted their playoff overtime rules where you can only be beaten by a touchdown instead of a field goal, there is no debate on which overtime is the best.
6. Fantasy Football – Fantasy Football is a $1 billion a year business that millions of Americans play every season. Research suggests that anywhere from 19-27 million people play fantasy football in a given year. This number is so broad because everyone from ESPN to FOX to CBS to Sprint to Yahoo offers fantasy football leagues. Fantasy Football is a great way for fans to stay intrigued long after their favorite team has been eliminated from postseason contention. Fantasy owners are able to get excited for a week 17 Detroit/Tampa Bay match-up that they would otherwise not even check the score for. While some argue that it’s hard to root for a player on your fantasy team if he’s facing your real team, that doesn’t seem to bother many fantasy owners. This sure doesn’t bother Redskins tight end Chris Cooley who plays in four different fantasy leagues as an NFL player.
7. Hard Knocks – HBO’s series Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the New York Jets is the most intriguing show on television for sports fans. Hard Knocks gives football fans an inside look at an NFL training camp from the rookies to the coaching staff to the executives and even to the un-drafted long shots who are leaving it all on the practice field trying to make an NFL roster. ESPN has a similar type show with a weeklong all-access look at the Alabama Crimson Tide. The main difference between the two shows is the storylines. ESPN gives the viewer no looks at position battles, family and off the field life, or rookie/freshman hazing. HBO gives the viewer all of this and more. Everything’s included from the Jets’ fullback position battle to Darrelle Revis’ holdout and contract dispute to Rex Ryan being fined every time he indulges in his pile of snacks and treats. Because Hard Knocks is on HBO, the viewer also gets to listen to real “coach talk” as every F-bomb Ryan drops is heard while ESPN cuts to a different shot every time Nick Saban becomes angry.
8. Quality of Play – This may be the main reason why Sundays are better than Saturdays. The players in the NFL are bigger, faster, and stronger. The hits are harder, the play is crisper, and the total speed of the game is much faster than any match-up between college powerhouses. College football can have its’ option offenses and power running attacks. That kind of stuff doesn’t work in the NFL. There are no defensive ends in the NFL who a team can run the option at nor is there a rushing attack powerful enough to hide its’ quarterback. In the NFL all of your flaws will be exposed and offensive and defensive coordinators alike must counter those flaws, not hide them.
9. Playoff System – In the NFL, teams play for the right to go to the championship. In college, teams are voted on then put into a computer to determine who should play in the biggest game of the year. What is that all about? Forget the “Plus 1” or any other idiotic system the NCAA can think of to prevent playing more games to determine a champion. A playoff system is used by every major pro sport and even the NCAA uses a playoff system for its’ baseball, soccer, hockey, and basketball champion. So why not football? Almost the entire month of December is left wide open so why not fill those weeks in with playoffs? The Big 10 season is often finished before Thanksgiving leaving some teams idle for six full weeks before getting to play in a bowl game. There is no excuse for this. The NFL Playoffs is the most exciting month of the year for me, and nothing in sports beats championship Sunday. The two biggest football games of the year are played on the same day to see who gets to play in the Super Bowl. I could only imagine how great a final four could be in college football. This is one thing the NCAA must fix, and fix fast.
10. Super Bowl – You know what the best thing about the NFL Playoffs is? That’s right the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is the biggest game of the year in any sport in the western hemisphere and everyone watches. For all of you college football fanatics who think that college ball is still better than pro ball, here’s some numbers for you. During the 2010 BCS Championship game between two longtime college football powerhouses, Texas and Alabama, 28.5 million Americans watched the Tide roll to its’ thirteenth national title. A few weeks later in a Super Bowl between two small market teams in Indianapolis and New Orleans, 106.5 million Americans watched Tracy Porter and the Saints win their first Super Bowl in the franchises history. 78 million more Americans watched the NFL’s big game over the NCAA’s big game. More people even watched the Super Bowl last year than watched the final episode of M-A-S-H in 1983. That should put the issue of NFL vs. NCAA popularity to rest. Sorry college football fans but you just can’t beat the NFL.