Five Reasons Why I Love College Football

College football has it all. No sport on earth combines passion and pageantry with chaos and controversy quite like this one, and the debates between who is better and who is best will wage on until the end of time. There are countless aspects of this great sport that I hold in high regard, but for the sake of your precious time and society’s affinity with list culture, I am pleased to present to you the ‘Five Reasons Why I Love College Football’. Without further ado, let’s kick this baby off.

1. The Rivalries

What’s better than your team having scoreboard over your most hated rival? Let me think for a sec-NOTHING. It’s the ultimate trump card in any debate. Oh, your team leads the all-time series, or has a better record, or signed a higher ranked recruiting class? That’s all fine and dandy, but hold onto this ‘L’ for the next 12 months. It’s that simple, and if you don’t like it, tough.

Games like Ohio State-Michigan, Oklahoma-Texas, Auburn-Alabama, USC-Notre Dame, Miami-Florida State and Army-Navy are just a tiny fraction of the rivalry matchups that college football gifts us each year. The bad blood that comes with in-state rivalries is too tantalizing to turn down, and border wars can bring out the best (or the worst) in both sides.

2. The Tradition

Whether it’s Auburn fans rolling Toomer’s Corner, the Ohio State marching band dotting the ‘i’, or Clemson players running down the Hill, the traditions in college football are as wide-ranging as you’ll find in any sport in the world. Some are still going strong after a century, like Texas A&M’s midnight yell practice, and some are new to the party, like fans and players waving to the children’s hospital at Iowa. If you’re all about tradition, this is the sport for you.

3. The Upsets

Perhaps the most exciting part about college football is the chance of anything happening on any given Saturday. Parity in the sport is at an all-time high, and with seemingly every team having at least one difference maker on the field or on a headset, upsets are as surprising as they are inevitable. App State over Michigan? Yup. Boise State over Oklahoma? That one still stings, but yes, it definitely happened too. If you’re a fan of a highly ranked/blue blood program, chances are you know what it’s like to watch a team that has no business of competing with yours do exactly that, and if it hasn’t happened lately, give it time, because it will.

4. The Highlights

Years ago, some friends of mine loved talking about football. I never really followed sports growing up, but that’s another story. As for them, their sports talk may as well have been a foreign language to me. It was mostly about the Cowboys, but occasionally they would harp on college ball. The season had just started, and although I had no clue what was going on, I figured I’d check out a game. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel so left out.

Miami at Oklahoma.

All I really knew to talk about with my buds was that this Bradford guy apparently played pretty well. He seemed like a big deal, but that was the first college football game I ever sat and paid attention to all the way through, so mine was far from an expert’s opinion. In any case, it was just fun finally having something else to talk about other than Halo or Paul’s bitchy ex.

I haven’t missed a Saturday since.

Over the next couple seasons, I successfully became a casual fan of the game. I was familiar with the top teams and the best players, and I spoke my share of trash like most fans. Soon, I’d experience the hardest loss in my young fandom’s lifetime. I have Tim Tebow to thank for that. A month later, I experienced another tough loss, but this one hurt the most. My grandmother. My second mother. My Lita. They gave her two weeks. She didn’t make it through the weekend.

For a few years, my sister would watch most games with me, and from the very beginning she was just as emotionally invested as I was, if not more so. If that was debatable, what couldn’t be argued was how serious she took her education compared to me. While she studied and took notes and read her books every night, I spent most of my time on the couch watching TV or playing video games. I figured I would do just enough to get by in school. Life after that never really crossed my mind. Planning ahead just wasn’t my thing.

Fortunately, my sister has always been exponentially more responsible than I ever was and ever will be. She made sure I did what I had to do to ensure I could continue my studies beyond the city limits of Mustang, America.

When it finally came time to choosing schools to apply to, there was only one choice I had in mind. Sure, I could have done the smart thing and applied to multiple universities to increase my chances of being accepted and give myself options, but I never saw myself thriving in a collegiate environment in the first place, so I figured I might as well enjoy the place for however long I ended up lasting there.

So what did I do? I applied to the University of Oklahoma. Why? Because I was (then, now and forever) a fan of Sooner Football. That’s all the logic I needed, and it’s turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made.

After a few semesters, I was practically a pro at being a college student, if that makes sense, and considering how far I’d come, I was damn proud of that. Life was moving a million miles a minute, but I kept up. Then I met her, and everything else slowed to a gradual halt.

One of her textbooks hadn’t come in the mail yet, but there was a chapter quiz coming up at the end of the week. I overheard her talking about it with her lab partner, so I offered to have copies made from my own. She accepted, and after class we walked to the library.

We had some time to kill in between our microbio lab and our physio lecture, so I asked if she’d like an impromptu tour of the campus grounds. I’m quite sure she already knew her way around well enough, but much to my delight, she agreed anyway.

I remember it being an unusually chilly September morning. I carefully wheeled my bike along between us, making sure not to bump her shins with the sharp pedals. We walked down the sidewalk, across the street from my favorite place on campus — the football stadium. Truthfully, it’s my favorite place in the world, but I never told her that.

I introduced her to Heisman Park — an area with larger-than-life statues of some serious gridiron superheroes. I told her everything I knew about each of them. I probably rambled on like I often do, but she seemed to enjoy what I was saying. Heck, she was laughing and smiling almost as much as I was.

We crossed the street and found an open gate before we made it down to field level unbothered. It was haunting, but in a good way. The loudest space in my universe was on mute. I stared at the sea of green beneath our feet and the infinite rows of metal and concrete around us. The sky was gray, and the palace, empty, but I could feel it.

I took it in, then I asked her, "Do you feel it?"

She looked up as if she expected drops of rain. After a moment, she finally asked, "Do I feel what?"

The magic.

Luckily for me, ‘Sooner Magic’ is an actual term people around here use, so I was able to pretend for just a little bit longer. For the record, I’m not what some would call the ‘romantic type’. I either put on too much mustard, or not enough. Still, I knew what I was feeling in that moment. I felt it in my chest. It was more than the magic I told her about. It was more than a funny sounding term. In time, I came to fall in love with this girl, but that’s all that ever came of that.

You see, without college football, I’m in no way the man I am today. It might sound corny to you, but for better or for worse, it’s helped shape my life’s experiences. It gave me a reason to feel more like one of the guys. It gave me an excuse for seeking an education. It’s taught me one of the most valuable lessons I’ll ever learn — perspective. With every season, wins and losses become less important to me, yet I find myself enjoying the game more and more with every snap. I remember the times I lost my voice in celebration, and the times I wanted to break every breakable thing around me. Up to this point, I’d describe my life as a three-yard run up the middle on 2nd and 10. It’s not a play for the highlight reel, but at least my next down is a little more manageable.

5. Bowl Season

The most wonderful time of any given college football year is bowl season, hands down. It’s put up or shut up time with conference bragging rights on the line. It can also give fans a sneak-peek at potential breakout stars going into the offseason. As for the players, seniors have a chance to go out on a high note with their teams. Perhaps best of all are the SWAG bags. What player wouldn’t want a sweet aloha t-shirt, or a not-very-fashionable yet durable backpack, or a watch with all the bells and whistles (minus the cool ones)? Even if your team doesn’t win in the postseason, all is not lost. That is, unless each of your rivals win their bowls. Then it sucks to be you, but hey, there’s always next year.

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