I’m not an NCAA fan. It doesn’t matter what sport we’re talking about. I attribute this to being Canadian. I have a hard time getting excited about University allegiances for schools I know nothing about. Despite this, I do have some Canadian friends who pay attention to NCAA Basketball, and I know what March Madness is, and I completely understand the appeal.
I’m going to put this bluntly. NCAA sports are more important or interesting than most major league sports. This is likely counter-intuitive.
“Mike (err, lineout),” you say, “this is preposterous! Major league professional sports are the pinnacle of athletic competition! Why else would we pay them millions of dollars to go out there and put a round thing into a square area?”
But NCAA sports are played by guys and gals who are basically auditioning, all the time, for the next level. They have everything to lose. There are scouts in those stands from major teams during every one of their season and post-season games. A few faulty performances could mean the difference between being drafted in the first round or fading into local obscurity as the guy who “coulda gone pro” but never found work with that communications degree and now works at the gas station. Dreams are broken at the collegiate level of play. Since so many of those players have dedicated their lives to the sport at the college level, it’s often too late to turn back the clock and persue something more attainable.
In the NCAA, players are literally playing for it all. They’re playing for the dream (or their dream, anyway). Sure, when guys are playing for the Stanley Cup they are also playing for a dream, but the difference is that many of them will still have a job next year. They’ve made it.
What’s more, NCAA sports are more interesting to follow politically and socially. I was just reading an essay by David Sedaris in Me Talk Pretty One Day where he talks about how, growing up in North Carolina, it mattered to people if you were a UNC fan or an NC State fan. The former blue, the latter red. Your allegiance said something about you to different social groups. Sedaris wasn’t interested in football so his description ended there, but my boss at work is from North Carolina and I mined him for details. He claims that NC State is almost a technical school filled with Engineers and other tradesmen/math folks/whatever. UNC, on the other hand, has more of a liberal arts backing. So, supporting NC State would be like supporting the engineering department and all the meathead anti-intellectual bravado (which is weird, considering how much math/science they would know) that goes with it. Supporting UNC would be like supporting a team made up of philosophy students.
This is why NCAA sports are inherently more interesting than professional sports. Major league sports usually base their allegiance on little more than geographical location. You root, root, root for the home team. NCAA sports teams come with added political and social subtext! You’re not just picking a set of colors but, symbolic or not, you’re picking an ethos!
I happen to think that’s pretty awesome.
When you combine these ethos-based battles with the mentality that every game matters to the lives of the athletes playing, you get a product more exciting generally than pretty much anything except post-season professional sports.
This game, though… piece of crap. Honestly. I really didn’t think I’d find a worse football game than Capcom MVP Football and here it is. I was really spoiled by the alphabetical precursor of Madden ’96. Side-view? What is this, an LCD handheld? Bah! Also, it baffles me that more of these games didn’t have in-game control layout screens. I mean, sure, books were more important in those days, but when you’d rent them sometimes the photocopied version of the book you got was covered in juice and detritus and you didn’t want to touch it and then HOW THE FUCK WOULD YOU KNOW HOW TO PASS THE FUCKING BALL HONESTLY WHAT THE FUCK.