College Football: It’s Only a Game

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I take football very seriously. But not as seriously as the powers that be, apparently.

Two weeks ago, I was part of the largest crowd ever to watch a football game. 115,109 of us crammed together under a starry sky to cheer for our teams. My family and I traveled nearly 800 miles and spent over a thousand dollars to be there. We’ve been season ticket holders for over 20 years. When it comes to watching and critiquing football, I have earned my street cred.

I’m pretty used to the spectacle and the pageantry of these events, so it takes a lot for me to say “too much!” But here it goes: these are the way in which college football is taking itself way too seriously.

The player introductions

The recent renovation of our massive stadium included digital scoreboards that are so big they can be seen from space. But when our starting lineup gets introduced, their shiny mugs appear in bigger-than-life size and it’s a bit unsettling. To see our 6-foot 5-inch quarterback on the field is impressive enough, but to see his face projected on a nearly 50-foot high screen is a bridge too far. It’s as if God himself is staring down at us, daring us to ignore who is a general studies major and who calls Detroit his hometown.

The coin toss

How many grown men does it take to drop a coin in the grass? An entire platoon, apparently. In this era of “everyone is a winner,” college football teams now have at least 4 captains. If you’re a senior and not a total bench warmer, you’re out there on the 50 yard line glad handing the other team’s captains and conferencing with your peeps about whether heads or tails is luckier. That is, if you can even see the coin in the huge crowd of refs, cameramen, and whatever dignitary is out there with his entire extended family.  Apparently a coin can’t be dropped by just anyone.

The first down measurements

It’s not only the puffery surrounding the game that’s gotten a bit too big for its britches, it’s the execution of some of the crazier rules. What’s the deal with using poles and chains to measure how far the ball went? Why can’t football leave this one vintage football prop in a cloud of dust? The chains should go the way of leather helmets and astroturf. Someone needs to explain to me why, when you really need to know exactly how far the ball is from the original line of scrimmage, this chain contraption will have the definitive answer. Because as far as I can see, the refs who jog out from the sideline wielding those bright orange pillars of accuracy aren’t all that exact about where they put the first pole. The one they’re measuring FROM.  In a game of inches, it matters where this gets placed.  Why the placement of one end of that chain is so unscientific and the resulting placement of the other end is somehow The Final Word on first downs (or not), I will never know. The refs should just eyeball the sideline marker and make the call. It wouldn’t be any worse.

The cost of concessions

Is this the world’s nicest country club? Am I inside a vintage Bentley? Why does a bottle of water cost $5? It’s not quite as bad as a movie theater, where your food costs more than your ticket, but it’s getting there. My kitchen cabinets are full of $8 “souvenir cups” I was just too cheap to leave behind.  I’d bring in my own snacks but the full body pat down at the entrance prevents it.

The number of stadium workers

Staffing models for football stadiums rival the TSA extravaganza. I know, security is important and you need a lot of people in bright yellow vests to manage the crowds in case something happens. But nearly a dozen of them hover near each section entrance. Have you looked at the staff demographics? I’ve never seen anyone under 60 working there…if any violence were to occur, I’d feel morally obligated to let the “security” staff exit first, out of respect for my elders. If the university wants to give local seniors a way to see games for free, I’m all for it. But let’s not pretend the grannies in uniform will be breaking up any fights.

Whew!  Now I’m all worked up over nothing.  Perhaps I’m taking this a bit too seriously.

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