The Autumn Wind is a pirate
Blustering in from sea,
With a rollicking song, he sweeps along,
The College Football offseason is truly one of the worst offseasons in sports. College football begins in September, it’s here for 4-5 blistering months, culminates in January, and subsequently disappears. We can placate ourselves with Spring Football, Draft hopefuls, and some high profile recruits, but nothing will ever come close to replacing the actual season.
His face is weather beaten.
He wears a hooded sash,
With a silver hat about his head,
And a bristling black mustache.
The most beautiful thing about College Football is its breakneck pace. Nothing in College Football (except for potentially Nick Saban) can be described as consistent. There’s nothing permanent except for the institutions of higher learning that field the teams we love and the teams we hate. In a paradoxical way, the only thing you can describe as consistent with College Football is its inherent inconsistency.
Fans of the NFL don’t understand how anyone could watch something with such great talent disparity. From a purely technical standpoint, I understand this. It’s much more technically impressive to watch Dez Bryant catch a 50-yard bomb over Richard Sherman than it is to watch Dez Bryant catch a pass over a man whose football career won’t go farther than his University.
Part of the beauty of College Football is that sometimes, that man strikes back. That man picks the pass off, setting his place in the halls of his alma mater forever. College Football is inherently about the Great Underdog Story, it’s about ordinary men doing extraordinary things.
The Great Underdog Story draws us all in. It gives us ridiculously illogical hope in the face of impossible odds. It doesn’t matter if our team is 0-9 going up against the undefeated team looking to repeat as champions. College Football is decidedly anti-Sisyphean, the mere mortals can wound the Greek gods in our timelines. There is always hope. There is always a chance.
He growls as he storms the country,
A villain big and bold.
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake,
As he robs them of their gold.
All sports have villains. The hero/villain dichotomy is part of what makes sports enjoyable to us. We have a team or a player or a coach that we love, and we have a team or a player or a coach that we hate. Everyone is guilty of sports hate. No one lives completely divorced from human emotion. College Football is that raw emotion, harnessed.
That emotion is in things like the student sections. At Texas Tech, it’s wrapping Will Rogers. It's throwing tortillas at everything that moves. It's the Victory Bells. Other sports have tradition and pageantry, but no one has anything quite like College Football. The NFL has its sickeningly corporate "rivalries" and superfans and slow-motion highlights, but there is no sense of ownership outside of the Green Bay Packers. Basketball has traditions, but the games aren’t long enough to garner as much of a sense of emotion. Maybe you could argue that NBA playoff series capture a good chunk of emotion, but I’m still taking College Football every single time.
Part of the emotional connection to College Football is the length of the games. When your team gets crushed, you leave the stadium angry that you’ve wasted four freaking hours in a stadium watching whatever the hell that performance on the field was. You sit in front of the TV for hours, watching as three hours of a Broadway-length drama comes to a thrilling conclusion. Other sports are action movies, they’re entertaining for an hour and a half and sometimes they can leave you sad. College Football is the three hour long epic, its conclusion leaving you gripping the cupholders in your theater seats.
In those long, drawn out moments, heroes and villains get more fleshed out. There’s plenty of time for sideline interactions, there’s more time to wonder what’s going on in your quarterback’s head as he takes the field for a potentially game-winning drive, there’s time to appreciate the chess match happening between the coaches, there’s time for the anticipation to build and build until it reaches it’s explosive climax. College Football is an enigma, the combination of the swiftness of the season and the length of the games are two opposing forces that become intoxicating.
College Football is without a doubt better than the NFL. Maybe in past years, the professional version of the sport reigned supreme. The poem used to illustrate these words was originally written for the Oakland Raiders. It doesn’t make much sense now, as for many years, the Raiders were without a direction. The relentless robotic functionality of each NFL front office, particularly for the Raiders after the passing of Al Davis, has rendered each team without a personality.
For the Texas Tech Red Raiders, despite a highjacking in the early 2010s, that personality never truly left. It exists on the field as a form of unpredictability, a way to circumvent statistics and probabilities. For all intents and purposes, the poem now more accurately describes the Red Raiders as opposed to the team that it was written for.
The Autumn Wind is a raider,
Pillaging just for fun.
He'll knock you 'round and upside down,
And laugh when he's conquered and won.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders went 7-6 in 2015, their season culminating in a hard-fought defeat at the hands of the LSU Tigers. Heroes emerged for the Red Raiders, names like Patrick Mahomes, Breiden Fehoko, and Jah’Shawn Johnson. Villains became more solidified for Texas Tech, names like Art Briles, Gary Patterson, and Baker Mayfield aren’t spoken on most of the South Plains without a snarl.
Texas Tech lost a couple of key players to criminal events they were involved with. Key defensive players, to be exact. It stands to reason that with two of our top defenders no longer with the team, we would be worse. However, every question about the defense to those heavily involved in the program has ended in the answer "they might surprise you". The unpredictability and masked sense of unknown are a staple of Texas Tech football.
That’s the beauty of the College Football season. Few outside of Lubbock predicted Patrick Mahomes to have the season that he did. Fewer still predicted that the Red Raiders would be statistically worse on defense in 2015 as opposed to 2014, yet still win more games. For all the predictions that have gone down, all the experts that have weighed in, and all the recruiting that brought top players to campuses, we really don’t have a single damn clue what will happen in 2016.
So strap up, buckle in, do whatever your favorite phrase for "get prepared" is. The College Football season is a whirlwind, and it’s only a little over a month away.