Bowl Madness?


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I love college football. I don’t care if Mississippi Valley State is playing Eastern Michigan, I love watching football more than any other sport. This might seem odd coming from someone who generally refers to college basketball as my religion and the suicide prevention measure that gets me through long, cold winters. But football is just a damn fun game to watch. There are so many different plays that can be called: trick plays, hail marys, on-side kicks, the statue of liberty, the list goes on and on. Plus, my blood pressure usually remains steady when I am watching football. When the Tar Heels lose in football, I am disappointed and will feel sad for about 5 minutes. I generally do not throw objects, kick furniture or yell at the television. Watching the Tar Heels play basketball, well that is an entirely different experience, one that I will perhaps touch on in the future. But today I want to talk about the differences between college football and college basketball and even though I prefer watching college football why college basketball is still the best show around.

For the past 8 years I have spent most of my time in SEC football country. Let me tell you it doesn’t get any better than SEC football. I mainly watch SEC football to root against teams. I have already mentioned my disgust for the Lamecocks of South Carolina. I also generally root against Tennessee because they just might have the ugliest school colors in the nation and driving through Knoxville is a god-awful experience. Also, growing up in western North Carolina, I have come across my share of Volunteer fans, and they have generally rubbed me the wrong way. Of course after spending 3 months of last year down on the bayou I do have a special place in my heart for LSU, and I’m not sure I’ve ever met a Georgia fan that I didn’t like.

However, what tends to bother me about college football and their fans is the superiority complex they seem to have and how quickly they dismiss college basketball. Now, I’m no dummy. I realize that college football is the cash cow of collegiate athletics. This is partly due to the fact that you can sell 75,000 to 100,000 tickets to a college football game and only a quarter of that number to a basketball game. There are obviously other innate differences that account for the popularity disparity between the two. I think it’s safe to say that from November to February, the bulk of college basketball’s viewing audience is confined to the Northeast and the states of North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana and parts of Michigan.

This brings me to the first argument my SEC friends forge against college basketball: “Well college basketball doesn’t matter until March.” I find this statement very ironic coming from college football fans whose teams’ hopes for a National Championship can be whisked away with one loss. Let’s take a look at the Georgia Bulldogs this season. Despite LSU’s romp over them in the SEC Championship, Georgia was a very good football team this season, and they are closing out their season against Michigan State in the BCS Outback Bowl. However, the Bulldogs started slowly with two, early season losses at home against Boise State and SCAR. With that opening loss to Boise State, all hopes of Georgia playing for a National Championship title went down the proverbial drain. This is why you will rarely see elite college football teams schedule tough opponents early on in the season. LSU rolled the dice last year by agreeing to play UNC in the Georgia Dome, and had it not been for suspensions, the Tar Heels likely would have crushed LSU hopes of a national title in the first game of the season. A couple of weeks ago in basketball, UNC played Kentucky in a national championship caliber match-up. Sadly, the Tar Heels lost. However, luckily for Tar Heel fans, college basketball is not college football, and the loss did not ruin their entire season and erase all hopes of cutting the nets down in New Orleans. So for those of you who say college basketball doesn’t matter until March, I must ask: “If your team loses in September, why even bother watching the rest of the season?” Do you sit at home and wait for a computer to tell you your team is the best one-loss program in the country? This brings me to my next point. Cinderella never even gets a chance to go to the ball in college football.

A few years ago around this time of year, I overheard a “gentleman” in a sports bar claim that college football bowl season was better than March Madness. I just about fell out of my chair. In my last discussion of politics and basketball, I mentioned the “Cinderella Factor” and how a mid-major team can achieve national notoriety for scoring upsets or by advancing several rounds in the NCAA tournament. College football bowl games by design do not allow for huge upsets or much of an underdog. Now granted this adds to the enjoyment of the bowl games. You do not generally see outrageous blow-outs like you often do in the first couple rounds of the NCAA tournament. But you will also never see the college football equivalent of a hysterical Jim Valvano running around desperately trying to find someone to hug. The most recent college football event that I can compare to March Madness is a few years ago in 2006 when the Appalachian State Mountaineers went up to the Big House and stunned #5 Michigan by defeating the Wolverines 34-32. But this was not a national championship game, and it never will be. I will watch, and I will enjoy the college bowl season this year. But it ain’t March Madness, and it is why I will argue until my last breath that college basketball is the best sport around. Kentucky and North Carolina may meet again in April for the whole kit and caboodle. But, if they do play again, it will be because they played their way there not because some computer compiling statistics said they should.