It's nothing against those who watch college football. Really--it's one of those things I kind of wish I could do, the way I wish SABR formulas didn't bore me to tears or the way I wish I could have an intelligent conversation about baseball prospects (or Baseball Prospectus, for that matter). I often wish I was the sort of thoroughgoing and erudite person who understood not only the glitzy surface of a professional sport but its amateur underpinnings, who knew the name of every NFL star before he even strapped on the uniform of his professional franchise, who could write a whole list of the best AAA-teamers in the land--and argue its finer points if necessary.
But I'm just not.
In some ways, college football is something I can't access in much the same mysterious way I find little to engage with in minor-league baseball. I would like to say I know and love the game itself enough to sit through several hours of often sloppy, often lopsided, unprofessional playing of a sport I'm used to seeing performed with precision and grace by professionals--but I'm just not. I would like to say I enjoy the youthful ideals of the minor leaguer uncorrupted by Scott Boras or the pugnacious aggression of the Big Ten starter who has yet to make any utterances to the media in an off-season about how he "has a family to feed" that apparently cannot eat on just several million dollars---but I'm just not.
Because for all the arguments about amateurism and purity of spirit, that's disappearing from both college football and minor-league baseball every day. In its place, meanwhile, there seems increasingly to be a sickness, which is not to say there are no ills in the professional game, but the college football brand is of a type that turns me completely off.
Call me judgemental, call me a priss, but I have to admit that part of the reason I dislike college football at present is the strange and somehow terrible way college kids get lionized by the media and fans, these 18, 19, 20 year old kids...I don't agree with the overwhelming fame that early, the big stadiums and rabid fans following a team around the country, when they're just kids. I don't like the "student athlete" sham, either--everyone knows these kids are given a free pass through school. I can't agree with that.
Again, let me acknowledge: professional sports have their share of scandal, letdown, corruption, idiocy and disproportionate fame. But the way I look at it, at least professional sports franchises aren't claiming to be anything else--much less institutions of higher learning and bastions of academic ethics. It's one thing for working stiffs to blow some bucks on a Pats game, and another thing entirely, at least in my mind, for students trying to get an education being overlooked, underfunded, or prioritized below some mouth-breather who happens to play linebacker well. College athletics started as a complement to and a diversion from academics; now it seems as though, at the biggest sports schools, the Division I football or basketball team has become the entire raison d'etre. I just can't get behind that.
But more importantly--what I love about sports, what keeps me coming back more than the characters or the interpersonal dramas or the long ball or touchdown passes, is the game strategy. I like my games close and delicate. Nothing makes me happier than watching a Bill Belichick defense perform on-field surgery against, say, the offensive juggernaut of the Indianapolis Colts. Nothing thrills me more than an extra-innings or postseason barn burner between two titan baseball teams in the Yankees and the Red Sox.
I've tried to watch college football, and I've tried to watch minor league baseball at a couple of levels, and they really aren't the same--college football, especially, seems a sloppier game, more prone to 60 yard runs and triple overtimes. The skills are not as razor-sharp. The craft has not been honed. There's no art there--there's grit and effort and determination and struggle and learning and development and spirit, yes, but there's just no music. At least, not for my ears.
I have continually hoped that someday, this will change. That someday, I'll have seen all the wonders there are to see on the professional field--or become sufficiently delusioned by its drawbacks--and will focus on the amateur levels, which everyone assures me are more pure. And I do fear that maybe this means I'm destined myself to a life of AAA blogging, like a minor leaguer who can hit only the straight ball very much.
But for now, I am what I am. I would love to be the kind of person who can tell you all the overtones and undertones and woody notes in a glass of fine wine--but all wine does for me is set off a blistering case of heartburn. I would love to be the kind of person who can listen to a symphony and tell you the chord progression of the main themes--the best I can do, despite great struggles in a former life as a music major, is hum along with the melody. I would love to be the kind of person who could report on college football and the (I'm told) thrilling Rose Bowl between Texas and USC last night, as well as the contest Penn State won the night before, and give you my top 20 draft picks and what teams I think they're likely to go to and who I think the Patriots will select and add my own perspective on the Matt Leinart hype.
But I'm just not.
P.S. Meanwhile, as far as the pro game is concerned...why can't the Patriots get players like this?