Part 2: NFL VS College Football

Six weeks ago, I wrote a column that compared American Football and English Football.

I mainly used NFL references in that debate because I hadn’t yet experienced a college gameday experience.

Now I have. Four of them if you’re counting.

Last weekend, I sampled the crème de la crème of college ball on the Saturday.

The next day, I headed down to the capital of humidity. Houston. The Texans were playing the Tennessee Titans.

So far, I have noticed that half the population of College Station is rather split when it comes to the NFL. One half likes it and supports either the Cowboys or the Texans (or both). The other is so dedicated to A&M and university sports that they won’t have a good word to say about the professional stuff.

I’ll be honest, my experiences of cities like Pittsburgh, New York and Washington DC had led me to believe that the NFL was the big daddy. The King.

Not in Texas though. Not in SEC country.

Last week, I fancied a trip to a local beer-selling establishment for a dabble in the cheeky once a week event that is formally known as Thursday Night Football.

Instead, what I got to see was the first half of the Texas Tech/TCU game.

Not a problem. We’re in Texas after all. As a polite Englishman, I wasn’t about to throw my toys out the pram and insist that Tom Brady and Geno Smith be put on display with immediate effect.

Someone else did though.

I let out a gasp as a chap wearing a Boston Redsox cap demanded that the channel should be changed. I continued to eat French fries.

After some toing and froing, he finally got his wish. Albeit on a much smaller television than the college game. He was appeased. For now.

It was surprising to me that the college game held more importance. Although with every day that goes by, I shouldn’t be shocked by anything anymore.

Anyway, as fun as my bar stories are, back to the events of last weekend.

The gameday experiences between the NFL and College could not be more different.

At Kyle Field, everything is a lot more stripped back – as it should be, it is technically an amateur sport after all. You stand for the whole game (in some sections) and if you’re legs get a little tired, you have the option to sit on what I can only describe as a metal girder.

The Reliant Stadium was the exact opposite. The only time people get on their feet is when there is a touchdown or an important third down. Why stand up when you have a seat so comfortable that it wouldn’t look out of place in your front room? Oh, and when people are coming around every five minutes to sell you a beer whilst you’re in your seat, what’s not to love about that? Well the fact it’s $8 for a beer, but that’s a different story.

Another big plus was something I wasn’t expecting. Air conditioning. I still have nightmares of the crazy heat at the A&M-Rice game. Here though, it was like sitting in a lovely bowl of cool air. There wasn’t someone passing out or sweating to death in sight.

However, as much as it is aesthetically pleasing, I can’t help but feel that the NFL comes across a little plastic. For example, you get surreal moments such as the announcer saying things like ‘Look at the big screen in the next 1.3 seconds and win yourself a footlong Subway’.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a footlong (strictly a sandwich reference) as much as any Tom, Dick or Harry, but the constant commercialization of the NFL can distract from what is actually important and the reason you’ve turned up: The game of sport in front of you.

On the whole, college football feels like a more authentic and genuine experience. It’s more about the atmosphere, the yells and the players. I believe you get more of a connection with the team at college level because they are representing a University, thousands of alumni and a town/community They aren’t multi-millionaires (yet) and don’t embody a multi-billion dollar franchise that’s being run by someone like Jerry Jones.

Also, I’ve never heard a cannon being shot at an NFL game. That thing still scares the life out of me when it goes off. In fact, the first time I heard it, I genuinely thought Kyle Field could be under attack. I soon realized everyone started to cheer at the cannon going off so either people were celebrating the fact we were under attack, or it’s just something that happens and I wasn’t privy to it yet. Luckily, it was the latter.

Likewise, you don’t get people dressed as park rangers riding horses in and out of NFL stadiums. That’s another thing I haven’t quite got my head around.

And there we have it. For me, they both have their advantages and disadvantages. It really depends what you prefer. I can see it from both sides and my opinion may change with the more football games that I attend, but for now, I’m more than happy to sit on the fence and simply declare my love for both.

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