The NBA playoffs have recently started and the college version of the post season just completed and it brought to mind the question for me, which is more fun to watch, college or pro sports? On the one hand with college sports you have the affiliation that people feel to their alma mater that causes more emotional connection to the teams then pro sports. You also have the whole amateur athlete playing for the love of the game versus jaded pro just waiting to cash his big paycheck.
Matt: Personally, I find myself more entertained watching pro sports than college. First of all the talent level isn't even comparable. You know the discussions that come up every once in a while about could NCAA Champion X beat perennial pro loser team Y? Let me just tell you, no. No college team could EVER beat a professional team. Ever. The best athletes with the most talent play pro sports. Whether that's the NFL, NBA or MLB.
Second, there is more of a purity to the championships in pro sports. For all the gaudy spectacle that is the Super Bowl, you never hear anyone talking about how the Champion of the NFL should be split because the AP writers and the USA Today Coaches couldn't agree on who deserved it.
Lastly, the games are more fun to watch. They're better coached, the execution is more crisp and the level of play is better. Guys know how to make shots, blocking and hitting is better and the coaching is far superior. Two words: NCAA Championship. The men's basketball NCAA Championship game this year was a travesty. No one can tell me they enjoyed watching that brick-fest. No way would a NBA coach allow his team to continue to jack up 3's while shooting 19% in a championship game.
Tako: I'm glad you like prefer pro sports to college sports. It's just too bad for you that two of the major American sports leagues could be headed for work stoppages in the next 12 months. I guess you'll still have Euro league soccer.
College sports is team play, and hustle. I could care less about the NBA playoffs, because who honestly wants to watch a bunch of overpaid superstars half-ass it for 44 minutes, playing selfish, show-off basketball? I'd rather watch a team of five guys (or girls) working together every second of every game. The talent disparity means nothing if it isn't fun to watch, especially considering pro ticket prices. You won't see me shelling out $75 to maaaaybe see LeBron do something awesome. In fact, I think the talent level in the NFL actually HURTS its watchability. There are so many defensive freaks of nature flying around the field, it leads to low-scoring games. This is America, damnit, I WANT POINTS!
In college, every game counts. In the pros, there are 162 baseball games, 82 basketball and hockey games, 16 (and possibly 18) football games. By the time the playoffs roll around, the players are on their last legs. That's why most Super Bowls are snoozefests. The last exciting Super Bowl was Giants-Pats, and that game was possibly the worst Super Bowl ever for the first 52 or so minutes. They spend so much time
exploiting the fan for as much money as they can squeeze figuring out who the best team is that it cheapens the product. It also ruins the ending. If the most talented group of players always wins, why even play the season? Just have all the GMs sign players, and then the commissioner can hand out a trophy.
College sports is about pride. For many college sports fans, you are a fan of that school because you went to school there; you know what it feels like to have it be YOUR school. The student-athletes are playing for more than just an ownership group and a paycheck; they are playing for the pride of alumni, students, and future generations of scholars. Rivalries are about more than just geography and some on-field meetings; they are rooted in tradition, from the Stanford Axe to the Little Brown Jug to the Harvard-Yale prank war. College sports is about celebrating the athlete that, to borrow from the cheesy NCAA ad campaign, will go pro in something other than sports. This is it for them. This is their shot at fame and glory, and they will push themselves above and beyond to obtain it. They aren't working for a new shoe deal or a contract extension; they are working to be immortalized as a campus legend like Lorenzo Charles, Kenny Wheaton, or Wes Byrum. It's the purest form of sport.
Lastly, I like what you did here.
They're better coached, the execution is more crisp and the level of play is better. Guys know how to make shots, blocking and hitting is better and the coaching is far superior.
Saying the exact same thing in two straight sentences is a great way to make your argument seem longer. I used it all the time in high school.
Matt: You sound like you're creating a commercial for the next year's Women's NCAA tournament...
College sports is team play, and hustle. We got game.
You can't honestly tell me that watching Butler shoot 3-31 from inside the 3 point line was "fun." The talent level disparity is meaningful. A majority of the NCAA tournament games were pathetic. Bad shooting, bad coaching, jack up 3's high screen and roll boring offenses and even worse defenses. So far in the first round of games in the NBA playoffs, there has been one game decided by 10 points or more, and that was an upset. On top of that not a single team has shot 19% from the field.
So every game counts in college huh? That Butler loss to Evansville (16-16 in the MVC) was so meaningful. Gimme a break. The NCAA regular season is about as meaningless as they can make it right now. You still get invited to play in your conference tourney and you can still get an auto bid to the NCAA tourney, and even if those don't work out you still have the NIT, CIT, CBI, Meineke Car Care Bowl and Insight.com Holiday Extravaganzza After School Special Bowl. In pro sports, the regular season actually matters because there is an actual postseason.
As for just handing out trophies, isn't that what college football is all about. The AP just hands out a trophy to who it feels is the champ. There are trophies for games. Little Brown Jug? Nice trophy for winning a game. I thought only the champion was supposed to get a trophy, but apparently in college sports you get a bunch of them just for winning a regular season game. Also, don't give me the "it's a rivalry thing" excuse either. Red Sox - Yankees, that's a rivalry. Ravens - Steelers, that's a rivalry. Lakers - Celtics, Cheifs - Raiders. All rivalries and still no trophy.
Lastly, stop contradicting yourself. The Giants - Pats was a great Super Bowl? And you really like scoring? 17-14 doesn't sound like a shootout. Also, don't mention the Payton Manning versus Drew Brees Super Bowl with two of the best offenses in the NFL and onside kicks and and INT's for a touchdown to seal the game. Or how about the Steelers - Cardinals which ended up 31-25. And yes, getting to the end of the season is a drain and a marathon, which is why the best teams get there. In college football we get to wait a month and a half between games to see the Championship. You don't think the teams are little rusty? You think we're seeing the best product after a 45 day lay off? Most BCS games are snooze-fests because none of the teams are sharp at that point.
I'm glad college players take pride in playing. I'm glad they can take heart in "this is it for them" and "they'll go pro in something else." Most 3rd grade club leagues have the same thing. It doesn't mean it's the most enjoyable to watch. I want the best product for my money and time. That's truly American.
Tako: The NCAA Championship game was not fun to watch. But what about the first four hours of the tournament, complete with four buzzer beaters and only one game decided by more than 5 points. You want to talk about an exciting first round? You got it. March Madness is one complete entity. It's a spectacle far more exciting than the Super Bowl. There were three out of four close games in a day? Whoop-dee-doo, the NBA playoffs last for what feels like six months because these "super-athletes" need three days off between 48 minute games. Maybe if there weren't an 82 game regular season, the playoffs would be more engaging...
No regular season matters more than NCAA football. How many teams have a shot at the title after the regular season is over? Two. How much more exciting would the NBA regular season have been if tonight was Game 1 of the NBA Finals?
As far as trophies are concerned, that's just what there is in college sports. There aren't athletes who dog it on the court, wasting the fans' and the league's time and money, because they're in a contract year and they needs to get paid. There may be prima donnas in college sports, but they can't demand a trade to a bigger TV market.
College athletes are able to make an emotional connection to the fans. A player is there for 4 years, give or take, and his identity lives with that school. Tim Tebow will always be a Florida Gator, Dennis Dixon will always be an Oregon Duck, Brandon Roy and Tim Lincecum will always be washington huskies. In the pros, you can play for as many clubs as will give you a uniform; legacies are sullied, and the emotional content that makes the fan a fan is lost.
To sum up, pro sports is corporate, and college sports is what America should be about: respectful competition free from outside influences. Sometimes Entries Last Longer Or Under Textualize.
Matt: You're right, emotional content can be lost. Joe Montana will always be a Chief and Jerry Rice a Raider.
Tako: No Jerry Rice is a Seahawk. Wait, no, he's a Bronco.
I'm not saying there aren't "lifers" in the pros. Cal Ripken, Jr., Peyton Manning, Malone and Stockton immediately come to mind. But superstars like LeBron, Carmelo, A-Rod, and others don't have an identity other than being an elite athlete and a Nike pitchman. And how much did Brett Favre alter his legacy by changing teams? There's a reason why pro sports still hold athletes from woebegone eras (segregated, pre-forward pass, pre-shot clock and 3-point-line); today's pros are freelance sports consultants.
That should get you guys started. What do you think? Are college sports more fun to watch because the athletes are in it for the game and aren't corrupted by the financial side of the business or do you prefer the more talented aspects of pro sports? Debate away.