Don’t get me wrong, I love college football at least in theory. Maybe I love what it used to be. But something has gone terribly wrong with the sport. To some degree college football is suffering from it’s own success and the money that came with that success.
College football used to be more about heart – love for your school and your state. But now it seems like heart has taken a backseat to big business and personal pride. Something else has happened – fans have become mean-spirited. Maybe it is the rise 24-hour sports news cycle. Maybe it’s because most sportswriters focus more on opinion pieces than game reports? Maybe it is the advent of the super conference and sweet conference-based TV deals. Maybe it's the ridiculous overemphasis on the BCS and national championships. Whatever it is, we have let ourselves get caught up in a frenzy that isn’t very healthy.
I distinctly remember the 1976 college football season. That’s when I became a hardcore college football fan. I was six years old and I watched the games on black and white TV. Oklahoma had won national championships in 1974 and 1975. As an Oklahoman, I remembered the excitement of those championships but I wasn’t quite old enough to understand and love the game. It was Tony Dorsett’s Heisman-winning season that helped me love the game. He was incredible. Even though Oklahoma was “my team,” I really enjoyed watching Pitt that season. Two years later Billy Sims won the Heisman at Oklahoma. By then I was completely hooked. When I think of what I love about college football, I think of those days.
Back then the sports opinionators were not releasing power rankings for teams and conferences. They raved about the game itself as much or more than they raved about individual players and coaches. Coaches weren’t getting paid multi-million dollar contracts. It was a much simpler time. Back then, rivalries included mutual respect.
I guess that sums it up. Respect! I think that’s what’s gone. It seems like none of us are willing to show respect – that includes writers, fans, players and coaches. I freely admit, I have failed in this area.
We also take our team’s successes and failures way to seriously. So many of us link some tiny bit of self-worth and validation to the win-loss record of our teams. You are no better or worse when your team is 11-0 than when it is 0-11. Both situations do, however, offer you the opportunity to develop character. Winning with class is just as important as losing with class.
What went wrong with college football? A number of things including our attitudes.
So the next time I want to make some wise crack on Facebook about another team, I will stop and think about respect and character. I hope you too. I am ready to love college football again. I welcome your thoughts on this subject.
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