Summer is drawing to a sad close, but fear not because that just means that college football is on its way. Yes, it’s that time of year when Saturday afternoons stop being about sweating off hangovers at the beach and start being about creating hangovers at tailgates. It’s hard to explain to people the appeal of college football if they’re not indoctrinated in the madness already, largely because it seems completely ridiculous from the outside. But it’s that ridiculousness that makes college football so lovable, and we celebrate that – and attempt to explain that strange appeal – by bringing you this, nine completely ridiculous things about college football that we love.
ESPN’s College Gameday icon Lee Corso is half-senile, he’s cheesy as hell, and ever since he had a stroke both of those things have gotten worse. And yet, we love the crazy old man, largely because it’s really, really obvious that he loves what he does. Take college football away from him and he’d probably die. I’m not even joking. Of course, we also love him because, well, the man simply doesn’t give a shit about your stupid rules. He’s a crazy old man and like all crazy old men he says weird and outrageous things from time to time, none more so than the time he said “Awww, fuck it,” live on camera and caused the entire set to explode with shocked laughter. He’s just like your nutty old grandpa, except he wears giant mascot heads and hangs out with college girls all day. No wonder he had a stroke.
In the NFL, most of the coaches are roughly the same. They toe the corporate line and/or speak in dull clichés. But the college game is rife with weirdos and degenerates, damaged souls who become such revered institutions that they can pretty much get away with saying or doing anything. Sure, sometimes that doesn’t exactly work out for the best (everyone at Penn State just nodded sadly), but usually it results in ridiculous shit like Les Miles eating grass or John L. Smith slapping himself in the face at a press conference. There is no other sporting profession where nobody is the least bit surprised if a coach gets caught drag racing a motorcycle with a coed on the back of it, and how could you not love that? That’s all I’m saying.
Sure, it’s noteworthy if, say, the Arizona Cardinals beat the New England Patriots, but really, outside of their respective cities does anyone really care? Those sorts of upsets happen every week of every season. No big deal. After all, they’re all professionals and the true differences between the teams are minimal. It’s only in the college game where you can see a truly massive – and truly ridiculous – upset. Only there can you see a ragtag group of hillbillies from the middle of nowhere like Appalachian State take out the most successful program of all time in the biggest stadium in the country (as a Michigan fan, I’m not still bitter at all...nope), and then watch as scenes play out across the country of fans cheering wildly in different stadiums when they hear the news, almost like everyone cheering when the Death Star blew up at the end of Return of the Jedi. That is unique to the college game - and is one of its biggest attractions.
Again, in the NFL, everything is mostly the same and nobody really does anything too outrageous. But because of the vast talent disparities between college teams, those nutball coaches we talked about earlier have to channel their inner mad scientist and come up with weird offenses and trick plays to make up the difference. Every innovative fad that shows up in the NFL is really something that college fans are well accustomed to watching. For instance, the recent adoption of the spread-option offense in the NFL has only come about after watching college offenses have success with it for well over a decade now. This is where all the cool stuff is born, and frankly, the only thing better than watching it work is watching when it fails in hilarious and ridiculous fashion because, after all, that’s what happens when you try to tell a college kid to do anything more complicated than a keg stand.
Brent Musburger has transitioned from creepy and annoying to venerated because he’s creepy and annoying. And that’s because as he’s gotten older he’s just gotten even creepier and more annoying, to the point that it is both hilarious and part of the fabric of college football. After all, what would a big game be without Brent sitting up in the booth making corny jokes and perving on coeds? He’s college football’s creepy, possibly drunk, old uncle who everyone loves anyway. Katherine Webb knows what I’m talking about.
Right now, most of you have the fight song for your school running through your head, and as ridiculous and as corny as most of them are, don’t lie to me and tell you that they still don’t fire you up a little bit. Whether it’s the Notre Dame “Victory March” waking up the echoes or USC”s “Fight On” playing over and over and over again until the opponent is utterly demoralized, or Michigan’s “The Victors” being all, you know, awesome and stuff, the fight songs – and who has the best – is something people feel legitimately passionate about. After all, it’s important to respect the fine arts.
Now we’re talking. College football is notorious for being the centerpiece to a weekend of drunken debauchery. Whether it’s tailgating outside the stadium with thousands of complete strangers or getting wasted at a frat house the night before the game, or rioting and burning couches because your team lost (or won, frankly it doesn’t seem to really matter) before running from the cops laughing with a beer in your hands and six more stuffed in every pocket you have, the party is as big a part of college football as the touchdowns. I mean, come on, the annual Florida vs. Georgia showdown is actually called “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party.” So the next time someone hassles you for vomiting up vodka shots outside the stadium, just tell them that you’re respecting the game’s traditions.
No, I mean they reaaaaallllly care. College football is home to epic rivalries, rivalries so steeped in ridiculous hate that they extend to stupid stories about coaches pushing their car across state lines because they refuse to buy gas in a rival state, stories of families breaking up and feuding simply because they favor different schools, and stories of people literally poisoning ancient and beloved trees because Roll Damn Tide or some such nonsense. College football fans are less “typical sports crowd” and more “roving lynch mob.” You can insult a man’s wife, and you can insult his children, but by God don’t ever insult his college football team.
I rest my case.