Thursday, December 11, 2014
The Demise of College Football by Carolyn
Let me begin by saying I am a die-hard Aggie football fan, as well as a former student (we don't have "ex-students" at TAMU, just "former students"). My experience with college football has been limited to what I have seen played by the "noble men of Kyle", what I have watched on TV, and participating in discussions about it with my very knowledgeable younger son. So I am sure my vision of what college football used to be (or should be) is an unrealistic one, colored by my own desires and limited experiences. That said, I do have some opinions about the changes I have noticed in recent years:
I used to see college football as a sport played by fine, upstanding young men who were driven by a life-long desire to play for "their" school, a school they had dreamed of attending since they were little boys playing flag football in the neighborhood park. College football, to me, was all about the team, the experience of being part of a close-knit group of guys who worked and struggled and bled together to ensure that their college was proud of their fighting spirit, if not their win-loss record. College football was about packing up the babies and grabbing the old ladies, and everyone going to the game together to cheer and cuss (and hump it, Ags), and be caught up in the spirit of the game. If only it were still true.
I am sad to report that college football is dying a slow and painful death. As much as it hurts, we have to face the fact that college football as we knew it will soon cease to exist.
Here are the underlying causes and their effects, in my opinion:
Because college football players can place themselves in the professional draft at such an early age, they may not feel a deep sense of commitment to their college team. The investment of their time, energy, and ability may be more for what it will gain them in the NFL rather than in what their college team needs. It is becoming all about the individual's stats, the numbers, the records, and what dollar amount those will earn when the time comes to move on. As a player, how can I make myself look good so I can get out of here and start earning the really big bucks as soon as possible? What's best for my team and my teammates? Who cares? This is a huge departure from the spirit of Aggieland. We have always been a family, a brotherhood, a community. I'm very afraid that will disappear in this every-man-for-himself era.
College recruiting is now, more than ever, based on what they can offer players. Who has the best weight room, the fanciest clubhouse, the richest alumni (willing to give)? Have you seen the videos featuring the TAMU facilities lately? Incredible - or maybe incredibly wasteful. Can you say "conspicuous consumption"? Because the emphasis is now on recruiting the best for every position on the team (and several layers deep) wherever the players may be found, the boys who grew up dreaming of playing for the school their father and grandfather played for, the school whose colors have decorated their room since the age of five, the school whose jersey they would absolutely give anything to wear, may have no chance at all to even warm the bench. Instead, teams are made up of young men from who-knows-where who have no heartfelt connection to the school with the best offer, no family history there, no real desire to play on that team, except that that school was the highest bidder in the race to recruit. Increasingly, the teams seem to be populated with a rather large proportion of thugs who don't value their college or their school experience at all, except as a stepping stone to a multi-million-dollar deal in the pros. (And that's another story - don't even get me started!) Many of the players have no maroon (or burnt orange, or crimson, or purple and gold, or whatever) flowing through their veins, just the green of dollar bills. And while they are suffering through the couple of years they must spend on campus before they move on to the big leagues, they seem to be increasingly badly behaved. I am sick to death of hearing that one of my Aggies (or a member of any collegiate team) has been arrested for who-knows-what. The Aggie Code of Honor says, "Aggies don't lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do." I'm sure many, many TAMU students adhere to the code, but according to news reports, lots of TAMU athletes don't. I believe the same may be true of athletes from other schools as well. Who do we want representing our schools?
The colleges' desire for the almighty dollar is a major contributor to the impending death of college football. They must dun alumni for more and more and more money in contributions in order to build a bigger stadium, a better clubhouse, a more impressive whatever. All this building-bigger-and-better-and-best business results in ticket prices that are out of reach for the average family. True-blue fans can no longer afford to go watch the games in person. Maybe once a year, to watch one of the "cupcake" games, when prices are lower, but probably not even that. Parents can no longer dream of taking their kids to watch games at their alma mater, grandparents can't plan to spend quality time introducing their grandchildren to an exciting game at the stadium they loved when they were students there. Too expensive. Furthermore, the crowds are incredible. Is it really necessary to have more than 100,000 people in a stadium? It is impossible to walk around campus anywhere near the stadium in any semblance of comfort when you are surrounded by 100,000 other fans. An Aggie t-shirt of a few years ago had the tagline, "Where 80,000 become one." I like that sentiment, but I'm not sure 100,000 can "become one". I like my football up close and personal. To fit 100,000 bodies in a stadium, a lot of the fans have to be far, far away from the action. It's a good thing we have mega-huge screens all over so we can tell what the little ants running around on the field are actually doing. And, besides the ticket costs and the crowds around the stadium, who wants to fight the traffic? When 100,000 people come to watch a game, they must enter campus; worse still, they must at some point leave campus. No matter how well-thought-out the traffic plan, it is impossible to get tens of thousands of vehicles into and out of the area without major traffic snarls and lots of time spent sitting and waiting, and waiting, and waiting. That can take the joy out of even the biggest win!
Well, there's my rant about college football. No apologies for my opinion; nothing to be done about it. I just needed to mourn out loud. Thanks for listening.
P.S. I still love my Aggies!