Many sports fans have argued about which level of sports is more exciting to watch, college or professional. There are many differences between the two levels of play and different rules for each.
Although professional athletes are more talented and experienced, college sporting events showcase younger athletes who have more energy and show more hustle. Fans also prefer certain playoffs scenarios, most notably the NFL playoff system as opposed to college football's confusing Bowl Championship Series.
I will compare baseball, basketball, and football at the pro and college level and let you make your own decision.
Many fans will say that professional baseball is more exciting to watch. First, you never see college baseball on television, because the only time it is on is during the College World Series. For the professionals, they are on almost every day during the season.
Also, there are differences between the two levels. College athletes use aluminum bats and the professionals use wooden bats. Fans tend to prefer the "crack" of a wooden bat to the "clink" of a metal bat, and with the wooden bats professional baseball has more home runs hit than in college.
As for the rules and regulations, both have similar rules, but one major difference is there cannot be contact between the runner and a defensive player in college. In the MLB, when a play is made at the plate, the runner can run over the catcher trying to make him drop the ball, which would make him safe.
A player can be ejected for doing this in college, which is a shame, because this is one of the most exciting plays in baseball next to home runs or diving catches.
Another difference is atmosphere. The stadiums in the pros are bigger and have a higher fan capacity, which is to be expected with multi-million-dollar sponsors and high ticket prices. On the other hand, the level of MLB players who use steroids, use illegal bats to hit further, and bet on games lend an atmosphere of cheating that one doesn't often find in college.
As far as the playoffs go, there have been an equal amount of dramatic stories and upsets, from last year's Tampa Rays making the Series after having the worst record in 2007 to Fresno State going 33-27 and then pulling off one of the decade's biggest upsets by winning the College World Series. In fact, the College World Series can be just as exciting, because most of the great college players eventually go to the MLB.
In the NBA, athletes are paid, and in college they are not. So, in the NBA, players are more interested in themselves and their paychecks than winning a basketball game as a team, by and large. College athletes care about hustle and heart to do whatever it takes to win as a team.
Many fans might like the high-scoring 100-point games in the NBA, but college games have more defense and physical play, which can be more entertaining to some. Also, the atmosphere in college is way livelier than in the NBA. The NCAA has college students in the crowd going crazy with their bodies painted and chanting and screaming at the opposing team.
The NBA has a calmer crowd of older guys and younger kids to watch dunks and fancy plays. Many fans of basketball would say that college basketball is more exciting to watch than in the pros.
And, certainly, far more people follow March Madness than the NBA playoffs. This whole playoff is a month of very exciting basketball. What makes it so nail-biting is that there are many upsets every year, such as Davidson, which came in as a No. 10-seed and made it to the Elite Eight. These unbelievable runs happen every year, and nobody can predict them, which is what makes college ball so much fun to follow.
One of the most exciting finishes in college basketball was the game between Duke and Kentucky in the Final Four in 1992. Grant Hill threw a full-court inbound pass to Christian Laetner, who made a fadeaway jump shot at the buzzer to win the game by one. That is one of the greatest games of all time, and everyone remembers it.
Another great game in March Madness history is the upset of Kentucky by Texas Western University in 1966. This team was such a great Cinderella story that it was made into a movie (Glory Road). An all-black starting lineup in the championship game beat the No. 1 seed (an all-white Kentucky Wildcat team) to win it all. Can you name any movies about the NBA playoffs?
Granted, the NBA has Michael Jordan winning six NBA Finals in a row from 1991 to 1998, and the San Antonio Spurs Los Angeles Lakers winning each of their three NBA titles. Unlike March Madness, every NBA playoff game is televised, and teams have more than one chance to make up for a loss. There have also been upsets here, such as Golden State over Dallas or Denver over Seattle way back when.
In pro basketball, people like to see fantastic finishes at the buzzer or stars like LeBron James flying through the air. Other exciting aspects include Kobe Bryant scoring 81 points in only three quarters of play or Tracy McGrady scoring 13 points in 35 seconds. Again, these are individuals that people go see...in college, it's a team that gets the attention.
This one sparks the biggest debate. On one hand, there are high-scoring college football games with a lot of one-sided games. On the other, the NFL offers lower-scoring games and better defense on a more even playing field.
Professionals have bigger and harder tackles than in college, but the NCAA has more unique formations and creative plays, like the Statue of Liberty and the option. Also, there are more trick plays in college, but there is more celebration in the NFL after a score. College players who celebrate are penalized.
There has been a lot of talk about the lack of a playoff system in college football because they have the Bowl Championship Series, where a committee decides which bowl game teams will play in and who will play for the national championship. Many players and coaches want a playoff system in college that is structured like the NFL playoffs.
Of course, like any playoffs, a game or series can be one-sided, but that's a risk taken with any game. Playoffs are more exciting, whether it's the NFC Championship or Game Six of the World Series.
There are many aspects of sports that make them exciting to watch, regardless of which level. While pro sports have more superstars, the slower level of play (to some) and interference of television and advertising don't endear them to everyone.
College, on the other hand, offers more "David vs. Goliath" scenarios, such as the aforementioned Fresno State College World Series upset, or Davidson going toe-to-toe with Kansas last year. The energy is higher, but the talent isn't at the same level.
One last aspect that makes sports so exciting is the atmosphere. It plays a big part in the game; players don’t get excited to play if there is no crowd or a crowd with no energy. This is all part of the game.
In college sports, the atmosphere is usually really high, with a huge and loud crowd. College basketball usually has the best atmosphere because the crowd is so close to the action and goes crazy. College baseball usually doesn’t have that big of a crowd, meaning the great field and nice weather make it a good atmosphere to play in, but not a very exciting one. Football has great crowds, but only if the home team is good that year.
If you have a bad team in the pros, no matter what sport, there won’t be a very big crowd, which will not make for an exciting contest. High ticket prices will drive away those who can just watch their team lose on TV. So, in this case, I think college sports take the cake, with Duke being just one example.
So, to recap, professional athletes are older and smarter, but college sporting events showcase younger athletes who are more athletic and energetic. Would you rather watch the nail-biting, home-run hitting, home-plate collisions of the pro game, or would you prefer to watch the younger aluminum bat swinging college athletes?
For basketball, would you rather watch the hard-working, heart-pounding, team play-oriented college game, or the high-scoring, dunking, and fancy play shown in the NBA? And do you prefer the spontaneity and high energy of college football, or the talent and spectacle of the professional game?
Let me know what you think.