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THE INSIDE TRACK | SECOND THOUGHTS

The No Fun League Can't Beat the College Game

November 06, 2000|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Maybe I caught the National Football League on a bad day.

Yes, as I recall now, it was a Sunday.

The setup: On my way out to cover the Florida State-Miami game last month, the boss asked if I would mind staying an extra night in a beach-facing luxury hotel room to chronicle the next day's NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

Mind?

Was I not paid to serve?

Was there not, in that luxury hotel, a mini-bar?

Besides, the NFL used to be my walking beat in the days when Los Angeles toiled in the pro game and places like Jacksonville, Charlotte and Nashville were NASCAR-only towns.

Still, I was not prepared for the sticker shock, the day-night dramatic difference between Saturday and Sunday football.

I knew the college game was better, but I didn't recall it being as different as Mardi Gras and waiting for an oil change.

Saturday: On a potboiler afternoon at the Orange Bowl, Miami slugged out a 27-24 victory over Florida State when the Seminoles' kicker missed a potential game-tying field goal in a moment to be forever known as Wide Right III.

In the aftermath, Miami students stormed the field, tears streaking down their faces almost as fast as the booze oozed from their pores. Police mounted on horses needed sticks to keep the kids at bay.

Coaches hugged, men cried and kids who will never be cut NFL checks lay sprawled on the field.

Sunday: At Pro Player Stadium, Miami beat Buffalo in a game so tight it could have been hermetically sealed. With robotic precision, the players played, fans cheered (as coaxed) from luxury boxes while writers--fatted after an all-you-can-eat buffet in an air-conditioned press box--tabulated the results as dutifully as your tax accountant.

Afterward, reporters proceeded in an orderly fashion to the highly organized postgame routine. Standing on plush carpets, waiting to rush to $100,000 vehicles, players answered questions in accordance to NFL-mandated policy. Top performers were shepherded to a separate interview room equipped with podium and chairs!

The ambience was so sterile I half-expected to be handed surgical gloves.

That weekend twinbill reinforced a truth that should be self evident--the college game is a superior product.

It got me to thinking of all the reasons why.

In college, for instance, you have the University of Georgia.

In the NFL, you have Georgia Frontiere.

Fight songs? Forget about it. Start with Notre Dame and work your way down to the Rutgers tuba section.

The NFL has one college-worthy fight song, Washington's "Hail to the Redskins." Second best is the Kumbayalike "Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers No. 1."

Problem: There are no more Houston Oilers, so we cede the second spot to Miami, which ripped off Houston's song and changed the words, or so I understand.

In college, the venues have character: Strawberry Canyon, Death Valley, the Swamp, The Farm.

The NFL has Lambeau Field . . . and?

College teams don't move. Notre Dame doesn't take a better offer to become the Biloxi Fighting Irish. UCLA and USC won't load up vans and move to Oakland or St. Louis. You can wake up from a coma in 40 years and Harvard and Yale will still be teeing it up.

Anyone want to lay odds on Arizona at Tampa Bay in 2040?

In college, Big East schools play in the East, Pacific 10 schools play in the West and Southeastern Conference schools play in the Southeast.

In the pros, Atlanta plays in the NFC West.

In college, you run screaming out of the house because your freshman safety can't cover.

In the pros, you run screaming out of the casino because your idiotic team didn't cover.

In college you can get a reasonable seat for a decent price.

The pros make you pay full price for exhibition games.

In college, they rip down goal posts on a weekly basis.

In the pros, they rip down Ryan Leaf on a weekly basis.

College has a superior overtime system. In the NFL, if a game is tied at the end of regulation, they flip a coin to see which team receives first possession.

In college, each school is guaranteed at least one possession from the opponent's 25-yard line.

Two weekends ago, under these rules, Oregon defeated Arizona State, 56-55.

For years, the NFL refused to allow a two-point conversation attempt after a touchdown because, well, it just made too much darn sense.

The NFL finally switched to the college system.

Replay?

The NFL has it, the colleges never will.

If there is a controversial call in the NFL, an official sticks his head under a black curtain for minutes at a time, like some 19th-century photographer burning a daguerreotype.

A controversial play in college simply becomes ingrained in lore as "The Play" or "The Fifth Down."

In college, the schools have neat nicknames: Gamecocks, Horned Frogs, Boilermakers.

The San Diego Chargers were named to help pitch the owner's credit card.

No need to charge interest in college.

The interest is there.

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