I am a college football fan to the core. I have tried to dive into the NFL, but it just does not work for me. When Philip Rivers was drafted by the San Diego Chargers I became a diehard fan. I still have my #17 Chargers jersey in the closet but it rarely comes out. Shortly after becoming a San Diego Chargers fan I realized that the NFL was a business. Chargers wide receivers would come and go. The offensive linemen would have different names every single year. The only name that has really remained consistent with the Chargers is Antonio Gates. In all reality, he is on the way out as well. This has made it difficult for me to remain loyal to the powder and blue. The business model for an NFL franchise is to get an amazing quarterback and fill in the rest of the team. In the last several years you really don’t even need a great defense to make it deep into the playoffs. The Colts team that won the Super Bowl with Peyton Manning had one of the worst defenses in the entire NFL. On the flip side of that, college football is much more about the team. Very rarely will one player lead a team all the way to the national championship. In fact, I would argue that one quarterback has never lead a team all the way to the national championship. Hear me out.
College Football is More of a Team Sport
Some would argue that Cam Newton lead his Auburn Tigers to the national championship by himself. I would say that is completely false. That Auburn Tigers team had an amazing defense. Anyone that knows their college football recognized their front seven as one of the best in recent history. The defensive line on that particular team was loaded with NFL talent. I would argue that the defensive line was actually better than Cam Newton. Cam was an unbelievable athlete but he was not the only player on the team. The Auburn Tigers could not just put pieces together to win the national championship. They did struggle in the defensive secondary but the front seven was so good that it made up for this weak spot.
There were also some very talented tailbacks on that team. Even though Cam Newton was the face of the program for a year it was quite obvious that it took more than just him to win the SEC and the national championship. I often wonder what would happen to the New England Patriots without Tom Brady. What would happen to the Indianapolis Colts if Peyton Manning went down? Oh, wait! We saw that a few years ago. With Peyton Manning the Colts were a 12 to 14 win team every year. The year he got hurt they won a single game. How can anyone argue that the NFL is not a one man show when this is the case? The same can be said for many NFL quarterbacks. It is amazing to see teams fall apart when they lose just one player. In college, the loss of one player does not change a team from a 10 win team to a one or two win team. That is one of the reasons I feel as if the fans are different.
College Football Fans
College football fans are a different breed. They will drive to their alma mater’s stadium on a Friday afternoon. This stadium could be 30 miles away or 300 miles away depending on where they work in relation to the university. After driving to the college town on Friday night the “football talk” starts. This could be something as small as going to the local bar and grill and talking about the top 25 and as much as going to the stadium to start tailgating. Trust me when I tell you that some people start tailgating 24 hours or more before the game. They have to take in the entire experience. By the time gameday rolls around almost all diehards will be at the stadium at least six hours before kickoff. They are walking around, finding old college buddies and tossing the pigskin around. There are often some adult beverages involved. A few hours before kickoff these avid fans will find a tailgate with a TV. They have to know the scores of all the other games.
The band will walk around the tailgate area playing the fight song. The coeds will be getting a tan in the sun. Food will be on the grill and fans will be getting geared up and ready to go for the three hour game that means absolutely everything. No matter who the team is playing this is the biggest game of the year. If their alma mater loses this game they have no shot at winning the conference championship and the national championship is out of the picture. Every game matters. Every game matters so much that college football stadiums will fill up to well over 100,000 fans every Saturday. There are some stadiums that will hold in excess of 110,000 screaming fans.
If you were like me, you got to your seat at least 45 minutes before the kickoff. You watched the pregame rituals to make sure none of the star players were hurt. You would notice just a slight limp by the starting tailback and wonder if that was going to affect his performance. By the time the national anthem is being sung about 85% of the seats are full. Admittedly, the student section is only half full as they are getting their pregame game face on. Most college football teams have a tradition when it comes to running onto the field. Virginia Tech runs out to Metallica’s Enter Sandman while Clemson touches Howard’s Rock and runs down the hill. Tennessee runs out through the T and Chief Osceola welcomes the Florida State Seminoles to the field.
By the time the game is halfway through the first quarter the stands are full and fans are completely enamored in the game. There are very little forms of entertainment outside of the game. Fans of college football go to the game just to watch the game. It is not as much of a social scene as professional sports. Many stadiums have the bare minimum when it comes to entertainment. There are not TVs in every section and there are definitely not games to play in the concourse. Now let’s look at the NFL.
NFL fans know their team plays at 1:00 pm or 4:00 pm on Sunday. Most NFL Stadiums are in very large cities which can make it difficult to park or get to the stadium. Instead of planning ahead or tailgating for six to eight hours most NFL fans will try to get to the stadium as close to kick off as possible. They will end up paying a certain amount for a parking spot and go directly into the game. When watching any NFL game, most viewers will notice that the stands are only halfway full at kickoff. Some of this is caused by the congestion getting in and part of it is the fact that some fans aren’t all that concerned about watching the actual game. Being spotted at an NFL stadium is sometimes more important than the outcome of the game. It is also the case that every game does not matter. In most years a team with seven or eight losses can make the playoffs. This means half the games they play they can lose and still have a chance to go to the Super Bowl at the end of the season.
In the concourse there are all kinds of games for kids and families. There are also restaurants and bars for fans to eat a full meal. Why you would eat a full meal while sitting at an NFL football game is beyond me. As a hardcore college football fan I can tell you that I have never once consumed an entire meal while my team was on the field; especially if I was in that stadium. There are plenty of fans wearing jerseys to NFL games but there are also a large portion of fans that are wearing their everyday normal clothes. Whether or not they are wearing team colors is not very important. They just want to be spotted at the game.
Let me make it completely clear that college fans must wear their team colors. By most I mean it is unacceptable to wear any other colors. When you watch a college football game on Saturday notice that the stadium is full of fans wearing one color. Notice the fans in the stadium at an NFL event. You couldn’t even pick out the home team’s colors if you had to. In fact, some NFL stadiums end up having more fans from the away team than the home team. This would not happen in college football at a big time program. These are just some of the many reasons I feel as if college football fans are better than NFL fans.