Monday, January 9, 2017

Missing the Big One

I probably will not watch the College Football Playoff championship tonight.

This is not because I have anything against Alabama or Clemson, although I have zero rooting interest in either.

It is not because I have suddenly lost interest in the Big Event in sports, although I've covered enough of them that the shine has worn off.

It's also not because I have anything against college football in particular. I love college football. In 38 years as a professional sportswriter, the morning of a big game on a college campus might have been my favorite thing. It's something I still miss, that electricity, that energy, and it's what elevates college football from the soulless corporate product the pros put out there on Sunday afternoons.

But 2 1/2 years away from the games have taught me that, amazingly, I can live without them. A year or so ago, not being fans of strong-arm robbery, we dumped our cable TV. And so the former sportswriter lives these days without ESPN, which broadcasts the game tonight.

Oh, I'll keep up with the game online, to be sure. But only sporadically. And only because I still wield this Blob -- which, along with freelancing, has become my way of keeping my hand in as a sportswriter.

After almost four decades, it does get in your blood. You love it in a way few others love their professions, because, come on, who wouldn't? And so I'm still compelled to feed the monster sometimes.

What I don't have to do now is feed it all the time, which is not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be when I walked away. And if you're asking now, "Wait, I thought you said you loved college football" ... well, I do. I'm just not sure what we'll be seeing tonight is college football, or at least what I remember college football being.

What'll be on display tonight, after all, is a Big Event that will be little different from the Big Events the NFL puts on. It'll be every bit as professional an enterprise, Alabama Amalgamated vs. Clemson Conglomerated. As programs, as organizations, they are major corporations virtually indistinguishable from than any other major corporation. They could practically trade shares of themselves on Wall Street.

Sorry. But that isn't college football to me.

College football to me is the Army-Navy game, which is why it's the only appointment viewing in the sport for me these days. Actual students play in that game. Actual future generals and admirals play in it, not future pros trying to upgrade their draft status. The pageantry surrounding it is organic, not the sort of stagecraft we'll see tonight.

l I find that refreshing. I find it, as an old guy who loves a nostalgia wallow the way all old guys love nostalgia wallows, enormously satisfying.


I'm sure it'll be a great show.

I'm sure I won't miss it.

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