I want to start this by saying I have nothing against pro sports. Those of you who are regular readers know that I am a hardcore Trail Blazers fan, and a pretty big Seattle Mariners fan, too. Indeed, MLB was my first sports love, and I have been watching that since I was eight. The Blazers followed soon thereafter. It wasn't until I was 12 that I discovered the joys of college sports.
And let me tell you something--college sports are way better.
There are many reasons for this, but the main reason is passion. College sports in general evoke much more passion than pro sports do. I have attended many Blazer and Mariner game, but have never left such a game with a hoarse voice or sore throat. I have both every time I leave Autzen. The noise that people generate creates an atmosphere so electric that its indescribable. I can't tell you how many times I've been in Autzen and seen the opposing team call a timeout or commit a false start because they couldn't hear. Or being in Mac Court at the of a game, and it is so noisy that the rims are swaying back and forth. You don't see people at a Seahawks game standing all game. And you sure as hell don't see the courtside crowd at the Trail Blazers game jumping up and down all game long.
But what creates that passion? I'm not trying to say that people aren't passionate about their professional teams, because they are. The pro teams are a source of civic pride, especially the more historical teams, which are part of the fiber of the community. Those of you who have ever lived in Portland know what the Trail Blazers mean to the city. However, there is no getting over the fact that you are rooting for a jersey. Its not as if the people on the team actually live in the city. Its not as if they'll be in the city when they're no longer on the team. And its not as if they'll care about what happens to the team once they leave. Truth be told, you have very little in common with, and very little connection to, your pro athlete.
The college athlete is a different story. You have a shared experience that gives you a common bond. You have all been nurtured by a great University, and it is a place that you both hold dear. The college athlete is not a mercenary for hire. Like you, they are a Duck for life. And they will come back, just like you have. When you think about Terrell Brandon in the NBA, is he a Cavalier, a Buck, or a Timberwolf? I don't know--but he will always be a Duck. And he will always share that same love of the Ducks that I do.
And because the whole University community is behind the team, you get a great atmosphere at the games. The students are jumping up and down close to the action. This is key to the college atmosphere. Pro sports don't allow the best fans closest to the action--just the ones with the most money. In college, the students are closest, and, unlike in pro sports, they as fans can actually influence the game. You also have a band. How many pro teams have a band? The atmosphere at a college game cannot be rivaled.
Now, the passion of rooting for your alma mater is one thing, but there are millions of college sports fans who have no connection to a University whatsoever. What do they root for college teams? Some, again, is that local connection. If you grew up in Eugene, you are likely a Ducks fan.
There are a myriad of other reasons that college is better. Look at what's happening with the Sonics right now. Give us a new arena or we'll leave town. The Ducks have been wanting a new arena for half a decade now. But there are no ultimatums. You know that the Ducks aren't going anywhere. College sports may be money driven, but they will never be to the same extent as the pros.
Finally, college sports just provide a better game. I've always thought about the style differences between the NBA and college. You'll never see a Princeton offense or much of a full court press in the NBA. Help side defense is disallowed by the defensive three second rule. The NBA is largely one-on-one my star against yours basketball. And I didn't think about it until thejamootz mentioned it yesterday, but that difference is even more pronounced in football. The NFL doesn't have the spread option or the wishbone. The NBA and the NFL basically consist of 30-32 teams where the only difference is talent, not style.
I heard the arguments for pro sports. "I want to see the best players." Well, the NBA might have the best players, but the net product really isn't all that great. Its Dwyane Wade getting into the lane, throwing something up, and getting bailed out by a foul call. And while I am a diehard Blazers fan, anytime there is a Duck basketball game on, the Blazers take a back seat. Even if the Ducks are playing Portland State.
What I really don't get are individual sports, such as tennis or golf. I can understand watching them--I tune into a tennis match every now and then. But, other than the Olympics, in which you root for your country, where is the buy in? Whereas in team sports, you get a community pride when your city's team takes home a championship, what do you get when Tiger Woods wins the golf tournament? Or Jeff Gordon wins the race? I really don't understand those. Besides, golf and auto racing have to be the two most boring sports there are.
Many of you made lists as to the order of sports that you watch. I suppose that I'll make such a list:
- College Football
- College Basketball (really 1a, I like to watch a Duck basketball game maybe even more than a football game, but football gets #1 because the way the system is set up, I watch college games all day, whereas I really only care about other basketball teams when March Madness rolls around. I just basically made an argument FOR the BCS. Ugh).
- NBA (MLB has a way better product, but I am more passionate about the Blazers than the Mariners)
- MLB (I watch about 80% of Mariners game)
- NHL (but it has to be live)
- NFL (likely only if a Duck is playing)
Eleventy Jillion: Golf: We already know that Tiger is going to win. Boring.
Eleventy Jillion and one: Auto racing: how is driving around in circles even considered a sport.
Eleventy Jillion and two: Poker. I know that this isn't a sport. I'm usually drunk when I play it. I don't play sports while I'm drunk.