Football is football right? Well, yes and no. The pads are equally padded, the fields are the same size, and the basic fundamental rules are the same. When comparing the National football League (NFL) and the college game, there are plenty of similarities, but there are also several key differences present. It’s been argued over the years as to which one is superior, but a decisive conclusion has never been reached. The differences are however, more pronounced and the college game looks more interesting on paper and may be, just may be on the pitch as well.
So what is Different?
The most glaring and obvious difference between the college and pro game would have to be the players motivation. In college the players battle for pride and glory. They put forth effort with no promise of monetary reward. The main purpose of playing is to simply beat the other team. In this essence, college football is more pure and untainted. The NFL players on the other hand play for the paychecks and often times these may back fire. There have been too many cases where a player has a sensational year and he receives a big contract only to disappoint every year from then on. In the pros league, big guaranteed contracts are a norm for players who have really good seasons. It is sometimes amazing to see what kind of numbers a player can put up in the last year of their contract. Another problem with money is the distracting quality of it. Sometimes players are too busy promoting themselves and focusing on their own individual stats rather than doing what is in the best interests of the team. At the end of the day a college player wants to win the national championship and maybe be drafted to the pros. A NFL player wants to win a championship, but he also wants an endorsement deal and to do that he has to catch a lot of touchdowns or run for a lot of yards or whatever it might be to get him into the spot light. There’s a commonly used phrase that is used to describe this “in college you play for the name on the front of your jersey, in the NFL you play for the name on the back of it”. This refers to playing for the team as opposed to playing for yourself. (The team name is printed on the front of the jersey and the player’s last name is usually on the back). Loyalty is also a major issue. NFL players are often jumping ship for more money (Baldwin, pg. 194).
Players are an obvious difference, but there is another important element that separates NFL and college ball, the culture. This difference isn’t as visually observable as player height or player speed. As a matter of fact, you can’t really sense the difference at all unless you’ve been to a college and a pro game. At a college game the fans are mostly young and often comprised of students and alumni; the stadiums for college are also generally bigger. College games are often described as more “rowdy”. Hardly is there ever an instance of a NFL crowd rushing the field after a big win. In college it isn’t really allowed but you see it happening all the time. NFL games are usually more business-like and orderly. This is mainly to protect the players, but it sometimes can be excessive. For example I was once at a game where a man sitting next to me was asked to leave because he was standing up too frequently. In the few college games I’ve been to I would find myself standing a lot more than I was sitting. In college football there are also rivalries that date back half a century. There are teams that genuinely hate each other. Examples are when Texas plays Oklahoma and when Ohio State plays Michigan. They mark the date in their calendars and prepare differently. They even have names for their rivalries. In the NFL there are rivalries but not nearly to the same extent. Rivalries in the NFL are often less between teams and more so between certain players or coaches. When you talk about the rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, you really mean the rivalry between Jerry Jones and Eli Manning (Oristano, pg.56).
With all these different arguments and analyzing the different sides, it is no wonder that majority of fans prefer college football. On paper it looks much better. It is untainted, more intense, and more exciting. With the NFL you get this predictable unmotivated product with rules derived to run up the score. Regardless of how much better college football looks on paper, I will always be a NFL fan my main attraction being that the characters are more relatable and more constant. In College football there’s a new class every other season and you never hear from those players again. It is the players and the story lines that make the NFL great, and that is why I will always be a NFL fanatic.
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