There is so much to love about college football. Die-hard fans. The enthusiasm of the crowds. Players who compete for the love of the game and not a paycheck. The rivalries. The bowl games. The upsets. The stories. The quirky coaches. The uniforms. The traditions.
But it is so hard to love it.
The NCAA is corrupt. College football fandom is really an exercise in tribalism. Universities value winning over academics and the safety and well-being of their student body. Huge money is spent on stadiums and creature comforts for the coaches and players. Playing into the inflated egos of those players. Compounded by an affirmed sense of entitlement. Many of those coaches are not good people. They lie to the fans, the media and their players. But if they win all can be forgiven and the tribe marches on. There’s big money in college football.
The reason to love college football is that it’s pure. But only if you ignore it. In reality college football is a giant feedback loop consisting of bad behavior, greed and victories. Only if the victories cease does the loop end.
And you can say if you hate it you should stop watching. This is a common call amongst those who find it ridiculous to love something you can despise so vehemently. Team signed a convicted criminal, don’t watch the team. Team signed a cheater, don’t watch. Coach is a jerk, don’t watch. Owner is a jerk, don’t watch. These strategies purport to work because by not watching you’re taking away revenue. You’re speaking in a language they can understand. If money is the driving factor behind a desire to win that trumps all other considerations you take away the money.
Except it doesn’t work like that. Not because there’s a thin line between love and hate. Or because you always have to support your team no matter what. Or because it’s unfair to punish everyone for the misdeeds of one. Tribalism is not an excuse. And winning doesn’t cure all.
College football is corrupt. College football is dirty. College football is a business. It’s not pure. The trappings of tradition obscure the reality. And we watch. We watch out of tradition. We watch out of habit.