“Football was life; the rest of the year was just biding time.”

Okay, it’s reasonable to expect that a college football piece in a New York Times “forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless” might be a little overwrought at times, but there is a paragraph in it that resonated with me, although not for the reason the author intended:

The extraordinary reach of football into fans’ lives makes perfect sense when we see it for what it is: the most popular mechanism in contemporary America for cultivating a sense of self that is rooted in a community. In a world of uncertainty, fragmentation and isolation, sports fandom offers us clear winners and losers, connection to family and community — and at its best, the assurance that we are really No. 1.

It strikes me that is the primal force the people running college football are screwing with in their quest to shakedown every dollar they can get their hands on.  That community, or, if you prefer, the regionalism that has fueled college football’s unique power, is being tampered with in more ways than I can keep pace with by a business plan designed (using that word loosely) to appeal to some amorphous national interest that substitutes the quality of our passion for the quantity of eyeballs that seek entertainment on occasion.

Conference realignment, convoluted scheduling that reduces the relevancy of conference play (insert your Georgia-Texas A&M snark here), the Big 12’s ridiculous decision to tack on a championship game at the end of a round robin-scheduled regular season and, of course, the Holy Grail of playoff expansion with its own attendant absurdities like a selection committee weighing the worthiness of its potential dance partners for weeks — all in the name of appeasing the broadcast gods who weigh ever more heavily in the sport’s orientation — these are things illustrating the attitude directing college football now that has served to alienate the fans and that sense of self she references.

It’s not even a steady decline over a long period of time.  When you look at that list and realize most of it has occurred in the past five years, the reality is that the trend is accelerating.  It’s an undertow growing stronger.

It’s easy to allow ourselves to get sidetracked by some of the other issues she mentions, but at its core, this is what’s ruining college football.  I write a college football blog that enjoys a loyal readership.  We see every day here evidence of that sense of self in a shared community.  Much the same can be said of the emotion I feel every time I set foot in a Saturday college tailgate.  I cherish that feeling; I expect you do, too.  But it’s impossible to avoid the realization that the community we share grows increasingly fragile because the money flow matters more than our love of the sport and that community.

Unfortunately, I fear it’s a lost cause.  By the time the power brokers realize they’ve pushed things too far, it’ll be too late to do much about it.  You have no idea how that saddens me.

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49 Comments

Filed under College Football

49 responses to ““Football was life; the rest of the year was just biding time.”

  1. aladawg

    Ditto Senator. We were in Athens this weekend getting tailgate stuff together but realized how difficult it will be for our whole group to get to the tailgate since almost all alternative parking on South Campus has disappeared to be controlled by McGoofy and the AA. We have one pass, but how many ladies are going to setup at that prime spot at 7:00 AM. We will tailgate at the house for Samford and Appalachian and drive in near game time. That’s really sad……………….

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  2. Athens Dog

    Your observations are much more eloquent and on target. And yes, I too fear it’s too late. But I’m going to ride it down as long as possible.

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    • Jared S.

      What he said. ^^^

      I absolutely love college football these days. And I think one reason is because I know much that is special about it is slipping away and I want to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of that magic in it before it’s gone forever.

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  3. dawgtired

    “Unfortunately, I fear it’s a lost cause.”

    Their passion for money is strong and will win out over the fan’s passion every time. I doubt they even realize they’re snuffing out the passion that created their opportunity to start with. Sad indeed.

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    • I doubt they even realize they’re snuffing out the passion that created their opportunity to start with.

      It’s worse than that. They think they’re cleverly managing the situation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Athens Dog

        As long as donations remain high, it won’t change. We talk about younger generation losing interest and yet they put the extra season ticket packages on sale and sell them all…………………..But I still think it’s happening…….just a slow slide to becoming the NFL

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        • Russ

          CTE may kill football, but money won’t. What money will do is ruin it for the traditional CFB fan. Money will turn it into NFL-Lite with luxury boxes, corporate sponsorship, national branding (which will kill regional/school connections). For me, the money will essentially kill it because I’ll lose interest. But it will continue on as an extension of the NFL.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Otto

            Sounds like NASCAR’s path. Money leading to ruin, corporate sponsorship, drivers which are PC personalityless spokesbots, and changes to the basic format.

            I would argue that Football is so special of community but also that even under the BCS debate raged on if the national title was determined correctly. A bit of unfairness creates debate which keeps interest high.

            My fear is that tickets are over priced, the playoff expands, and defenses are handcuffed in the name of safety and making the game more interesting by increasing scoring.

            I fully expect to live to see the day I turn the college game off as I have the NFL and NASCAR.

            Liked by 1 person

      • paul

        I suppose that to some extent I feel like Major Kong (Dr. Strangelove) riding the bomb down. I’m enjoying the ride but ultimately, there’s a messy explosion.

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  4. Rocketdawg

    It started for me years ago. We had season tickets for years and would move heaven and earth to make sure we made it to every game. Then they kicked us out of our tailgate spot so we adapted. Then they took away are parking . Again we adapted. Finally it got to the point where it such a hassle to tailgate we would grab something on the way in to Athens or eat at Snelling. In 2012 we decided it was too much of a hassle and didn’t renew our tickets for 2013. We went to homecoming in 2014 and sat in the Tech deck (which is just a miserable experience) and haven’t been to a game since. I still miss those cool fall mornings sitting around the tailgate and talking about the Dawgs. It’s sad we have come to this in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.

    Liked by 1 person

    • truck

      There was a time when I couldn’t wait for football to start. That’s what got to follow recruiting; it extended the season another two months. But now I practically dread the season. Just give me my 8-5 record, my disappointment, my Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl invitation and let me sulk for a few more months.

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    • Not that it would matter, but have you sent this to Morehead, McGarity and others? It seems stories like this would resonate with those who are killing the goose laying the golden eggs.

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  5. JG Shellnutt

    But if you write a memorandum, a mission statement, about less money and fewer eyeballs, they fire you and you end up with a fish in a bag. But there’s a cute kid in it that tells you how much the human head weighs.

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  6. DoubleDawg1318

    I am only loosely familiar with NASCAR’s rise and fall but I think college football is heading down that road and picking up steam. One day they will be scratching their heads and wondering why the fans don’t show anymore just like NASCAR is now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ElectroM

      I have thought of the comparison to NASCAR many times. I was a huge racing fan from the time my dad took me to races when I was just a kid until the money grubbing and corporate/media takeover became so blatant that I could no longer stand it. I haven’t attended a race in about 15 years and no longer watch NASCAR on TV. I fear that CFB is headed down the same path and they will alienate their long time fans just as NASCAR did. With the younger generation, from what I have read, not being as passionate and diehard as the older fans, I can see the day when the same thing happens with regard to empty seats in the stands and lost interest in the sport. Then when the over-hyped, slickly-packaged, politically-correct made for TV spectacle becomes just too much, off goes the TV.

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      • Otto

        NASCAR isn’t down because of millenials, it is down because they ran off their core fan. F1, IMSA, drifting all have strong younger fan bases. The young know how to use technology to find what interesting them and are not settling for just any crap they are handed.

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  7. The other Doug

    Just wait until we have another economic downturn and the fans have less extra $s. There will be a lot of single game seats available.

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  8. Normaltown Mike

    “and at its best, the assurance that we are really No. 1.”

    This part made me cry a little. 37 years is a long time.

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  9. PSwift

    Keep an eye on how things shake out at Ole Miss as a harbinger for things to come…Last year, their fans were irate to the changes being made at The Grove in regards to new rules on setting up tailgates, (i.e. – cars had to set up and LEAVE by a ridiculously early hour, and traffic snarls for those carpooling to Grove before kickoff). Will they relax things now that their program is embroiled in a hot mess? Only when it is too late is my guess.

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  10. Go you hairy dawgs

    Gotta break down all this regional sense of community and identity to pave the way for the new citizens of the world community! Wait.. am I posting on the wrong blog again?

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  11. I quit tailgating years ago because my wife (Georgia grad as well) had zero interest in going to games. I still love attending games but really would rather do other things than watch TV on a beautiful fall Saturday. Eventually, the commercialization and the money grab will make me walk away. I’m going to hate it if/when that day comes. The problem is those currently running the sport don’t care because they’ll have their padded retirement accounts and their lake homes by then … therefore, squeeze as hard as you can now to wring every dollar out.

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  12. Bright Idea

    And let’s not forget they are messing with the actual game as well. Too many and too long commercial breaks, reviews, piped in mind numbing racket, etc. etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. PSwift

    Here’s an observation…Check out recent prices for the Notre Dame game on stub hub. I bet 20,000 dawg fans are going to Chicago, and only half will attend the game. The only good tail-gate these days seems to be when you go on the road. Your expectations to have a structured experience are lowered because you are in enemy territory, and just running into some old college buddies makes up for the chaos because you are thrilled to be sharing a similar experience with people you love.

    Of those 20,000 UGA folks going up north for the ND game, I was shocked by how many of them are “poly-dogs” who told me they may make only one trip to Athens this year. Sad.

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    • <

      blockquote>Of those 20,000 UGA folks going up north for the ND game, I was shocked by how many of them are “poly-dogs” who told me they may make only one trip to Athens this year. Sad.

      That’s where I am. My family held season tickets for many years and I got my own back in 2011. After the mounting frustrations that have been cited here and other places, I just gave them up this year and now just plan on doing one road trip a year. Notre Dame is this year’s trip and I probably shelled out what it would cost me in donation plus season tickets for round-trip airfare, hotels, and two tickets to the game.

      My eyes got blown wide open at the Kentucky game (of all places!) last year what it was like to be at a game where they really care about getting people in the door and coming back. I honestly don’t regret giving up the season tickets and don’t think think I’ll miss going to Athens. I certainly miss what Athens Saturdays used to be, not what they are now.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. PTC DAWG

    I’m a bit different in my opinion…my Dad and I used to leave Morrow around 11:30 for the 1 pm game (early 70’a) still had time to get a bucket of chicken and a COKE…the fancy setups came later on with friends, I always preferred the simpler tailgate, think hood of a big Buick for the setup…Athens is pretty much part of the Metro ATL, and traffic is a bear. Road games in the smaller towns are more fun to me.

    It will never been the same…but I still look forward to the games very much…

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  15. doofusdawg

    Doesn’t appear the comments reflect the actual article. I found it very thoughtfully written and perhaps a valid description for a certain percentage of the fan base. Maybe what he is trying to say is if you pay the players then that will absolve all the fans of any real or imagined guilt over the past as well as going forward. Until they finally want to tear the goal posts down.

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  16. Senator – you have hit the nail on the head. I hesitated before renewing my seats this year and now regret doing it. The best part of going to the games today is just remembering how much more fun it all used to be. They have already killed the golden goose in my eyes. I’ll stubhub 1-2 good home games per year, plan away trips around LSU, Bama, UCLA games, and find something better to do with 6 hours of my Saturdays than sit in traffic going back and forth to Athens.

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  17. 92 grad

    I’m a bottom line type and it is my opinion that television is the primary factor in both the rise and fall of CFB as we always hoped it would be. In a sense, we can bottom line it even more and say that the neutering of the sport really boils down to this notion that we need a “true national champion”. The primary motivation for everything we identify as ruining the sport is the crowning of a legitimate champion.

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    • Faltering Memory

      I agree. A great part of college football is arguing about the past season until the next one starts. The only thing left after the “championship” game is signing day and now that is being diluted.

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  18. Bamadawg

    I stopped reading when it turned to race…. sad!

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  19. Southernlawyer11

    I grew up in Memphis attending games in SEC West stadiums until enrolling at UGA in 2000. It’s sort of tough to pinpoint why, but basically I have always thought UGA tailgating sucked……and I never really understood it. I distinctly remember walking through North Campus on gamedays in college and always wondering why the hell it was dead. And it was dead in early 2000s make no mistake about it. So why did Athens tailgating stink ? Part of it was the access downtown provided (why bother with the setup)……part of it was the hills and buildings and ABSOLUTELY ZERO centralized location where you automatically know that you will see friends. There is very little wandering upon a friends tailgate tent in Athens….Two friends might be a mile away from each other. Picnic’ing at the fraternity house was not real tailgating in my book but that’s what lots of folks did. It was OK, decent fun, but not what I knew as tailgating. Occasionally, we would crash a friend’s parents tailgate and that was always more fun.

    I DID very much think the Lumpkin Street fraternity houses were really fun walking by, but of course, that is no more. Then, returning to a game in 2008…….BEHOLD, WHAT MY EYES HAD SEEN ? They had finally wised up in Athens and turned North Campus into The Grove. Man, was it a sight to behold…….until is wasn’t. All I hear about now is friends from Atlanta taking a bus to Athens and going to the Georgia Theatre rooftop bar. Which is freaking sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sides

      I have been to 3 games as a visitor and I think UGA has the worst tailgate of any school I have visited. There are too many small lots so it is hard to find people. Why do people tailgate in parking decks? Downtown Athens is the only reason to visit.

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      • All of the lulz at a South Carolina fan arguing another school’s tailgating situation sucks.

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        • southernlawyer11

          He’s not completely wrong. Athens tailgating CAN be good……but requires way more effort, coordination among interested parties, financial outlay for a place to park and pains in the ass to deal with. Me, I will never be too tired to do that. But many will and that’s the problem to which this article alludes (among other things). The problem with Athens tailgates is that you will only ever see the friends that you specifically invite to your tailgate……and you mostly have to tell them where it is every single time unless you’re a hartman fund 5%er. It’s as if no tradition has EVER been created. At other schools, you can show up with only 4-6 people but your tent will turn into a party because everybody knows where everybody else is and you run into people just by means of normal ingress and egress…….and you’re usually a LOT closer to the stadium. People tailgate in the dumbest locations in Athens. If you have to take a GD shuttle from where you “tailgate”, you’re not tailgating !

          All they need to do is properly manage north campus and it will be good again. FUBAR is how i would describe the way they handled that.

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          • My point wasn’t to compare Athens to anywhere else. My point was that South Carolina fans aren’t a good vessel to discuss what is or isn’t quality tailgating when their idea of tailgating is standing around in a gravel pit fair ground that doesn’t have any tree coverage in a warehouse district.

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            • Sides

              We put the visitors in the gravel lot. You can show up at any time before the game and find a reasonably close lot for $10-$20. It is easy to meet people and drive to and from the stadium. I’ve even taken UBERs after the game. It’s obviously an industrial area, but they have done a lot of improvements (see fairgrounds and farmers market with indoor practice fields and coaches offices).

              I think Clemson is one of the nicer places to tailgate but you have to sit in traffic for 2 hours before and after the game. Their stadium is on campus like UGA but a much nicer experience.

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              • Normaltown Mike

                do they still let you leave and return to the stadium at half time to quench your thirst at Clemson?

                not THAT’s a great experience.

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  20. jhorne2000

    Much ado about nothing. Way off target. College football is great and getting better. I say it every year, but I’ve never been more excited for the season to start. Can’t see how conference realignment or broadcast deals will change that.

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    • Sides

      I agree, I’m always excited for the season. When my team is good I am ready for the game, and when they are shitty I’m ready for the fun. The fall is the best and football Saturdays are even better (I like NFL too). I think it is funny that the people here are complaining that they are going to quit watching football while they spend the entire offseason commenting and reading a football blog. They may not find it worth the money to travel to every game anymore but they are still watching and buying merchandise.

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  21. Castleberry

    My conference expanded and all I got was five lousy games against Missouri instead of LSU, Bama, MSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas – the t-shirt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jhorne2000

      Lousy games ? I went to the first game at Missouri and it was awesome. Last year’s game was great also. I think we shut them out one year when Gurley was suspended, the injury year we lost it seems like it was a great game til the end. You said 5 lousy games I guess I’ll have to say 1 lousy game since I can’t remember the other one. Whatever it was I’m sure I would’ve preferred it to what I’m doing on Saturdays during the summer.

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      • jhorne2000

        Oh I think I remember. The 9-6 game. Ehh I’ll have to say it was one of the lousiest football games I’ve ever watched.

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  22. 69Dawg

    The GA Southern game was my last. I went to that one because both my kids had been to Southern, one graduated the other one transferred to UGA. I tell you I don’t miss the traffic coming into Athens, the ridiculous parking, the lines to the bath rooms, the loud music instead of the band, and then the terrible traffic after the game to get out of Athens. “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln how was the play?” If you live around the Athens area it would be great but to come in from Atlanta or South Georgia is just too much pain. CFB will be on TV until the TV money stops, then it will slowly die like NASCAR. The stands at most NASCAR races are half empty in the South now and 3/4 in the expanded market where nobody GAS about watching cars turn left for four hours. So now the only races that are on network TV are the big ones, the rest are on the cable. I love college football but it is now made for TV (ESPN) and “them that’s got the gold makes the rules”.

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  23. Frank

    Doubt you’ve ever said it better senator. It is coming whether we want it or not, and it will sadden me too. Taking a piece of what’s become core to me. I grew up up north, no cfb to speak of (New Jersey), saw Herschel drafted by trump but was more of an NFL guy. Then moved to Georgia in 8th grade the oddity of Saturday foods all games by schools wearing high pants and midriff shirts started grown on me. Went to UGA and have been hooked for life. But it’s changing fast losing the charm. I want to be able to. Lees red and black with the passion that drew me in, but now it feels different. Don’t let them take this from us.

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