NFL: No Fun League?

Joint_Armed_Forces_Color_Guard_at_Super_Bowl_XLVII
photo: Jennifer Villaume

Guys, I have a confession to make.

This is a safe place right? No judging? Good.

I… I don’t like the NFL. Practically blasphemy in American culture, I know, but it has to be said. Don’t get me wrong, I think college football is divinely inspired and the greatest thing to happen to human society since fire. But professional football just doesn’t cut it, and it saddens me to think that there may be some ‘Cats who prefer the NFL to CFB.

As of my writing this, it has been two weeks since Super Bowl XLVII (47, for people who use real numbers). Now, that game was exciting when I watched it. The lights going out coupled with the 49ers’ comeback made for an entertaining game, at least for that duration of time. Two weeks later, the game has crossed my mind about twice. Once was during a conversation with a coworker (sports make for good small talk, after all) and the other was reminiscing on the fact that 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick actually ran for a touchdown, something I’ve seen happen all of never in the NFL.

To compare, I’ve thought about the Wildcats’ Gator Bowl win a few dozen times more, and I’ve thought about the three agonizing 4th quarter losses even more than that. Yes, I made those numbers up, but the point is college football is, for some reason, something in which I am vastly more invested.

Part of it has to do with that QB draw that Kaepernick ran. This blew my feeble mind; quarterbacks don’t run in the NFL ever! In college, we get to see shit like that. I’m a Northwestern fan, I expect my quarterbacks to run for 100 yards every game, damn it.

Offensive schemes vary by the school or conference, sometimes out of necessity. What do you do when your opponent’s athletes are bigger and stronger than your own? Make sure yours are faster and spread the field, like we did in 2000 against Michigan. Michigan was better by all means, but we beat them, 54-51, simply by being able to put up more points.

Alabama runs a run heavy offense. West Virginia seemingly doesn’t know that running the ball is an option. Things don’t vary like that in the NFL. They don’t need to. One of the NFL’s big draws is the league’s parity. On any given Sunday, any team can win. Sure, the Browns blow, but they can beat any other team and they have the tools to do so.

This is nice, but it also lessens the impact of an upset. When #5 Michigan lost to FCS Appalachian State, that was huge. When the Patriots lost to the Cardinals, it wasn’t that big of a deal. The Cardinals aren’t good, but it’s the NFL. This can happen any given Sunday. Appalachian State, on the other hand, should not ever have beaten the Michigan Wolverines. But they did, and the game is that much more memorable for it.

The NFL may put out a technically better product, but it’s lacking… I don’t know, heart? The same sense of real connection that exists in college football just isn’t there. In college, we root for our peers. The players are students like us, and unless you’re a total ass (like an unnamed General Secretary of the Chronicle), you want your peers to do well, so you cheer for them harder, because this is One Northwestern. There is no One Cleveland Browns, and though the fervor is there, it isn’t the same. You don’t go to class with the Cleveland Browns.

College fandom is a legacy, passed down through families for generations. My parents went to Ohio State. My grandparents cheered for Ohio State. Like a good portion of Ohioans, I was conceived at Ohio State, and I’ve inherited that fandom. Sure, my parents may be Steelers fans, but they aren’t Steelers. They didn’t spend thousands of dollars to become Steelers. They could be the biggest Steelers fans in the world, but there is no actual connection in professional football like the ones that exist at the college level.

That’s the crux of it. There’s a reason to be a fan of college football. We’re part of the culture just by being here. We spend absurd quantities of money to have the privilege of being called Wildcats. There’s just no comparable reason to follow professional football.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t, of course. I mean, I am, but I’m not. But if you’re more interested in the NFL than the exciting world of Wildcats football and CFB at large, well, God help you, son.

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