A recent discussion with some pals brought up this topic. Which is more entertaining to a fan, college sports or professional sports? In the past few years I’ve seen myself become more of a college sports fan than a pro sports fan. That’s especially true for the sports of football and basketball. And there are some good reasons why this might be, so here they are.
First and foremost, MONEY with a giant dollar sign and at least six digits. This is probably the most obvious of all the reasons. Professional players get paid money for playing a sport while college players don’t or are paid in different ways such as scholarships. The amount of money professional athletes can make in major sports leagues is simply preposterous. Money has made pro athletes out of touch with the majority of their fans. The average salary for an NBA player is a little over $5 million per season. Now remember a season isn’t year round, they go months without “working” in the offseason. So what do fans make? In the US, just under 75% of people make $50,000 or less for working an entire year. An average person would have to work more than a hundred years in order to make as much money as an NBA professional makes in a few months. Can you see where the divide might be? Most college players are in a much different setting, they are surrounded by other players who will most likely turn out to be regular people, teachers, doctors, businessmen, etc. Professionals also get paid whether they play hard or not, so its up to them whether they want to play hard and get a win or just do enough to keep playing. College players on the other hand basically play hard since they are playing to get noticed and possibly get a chance at playing in the pros. So I would say college players give a better effort on each play as compared to pros. I must also add a caveat about pros, professionals give more effort when they are playing for a new contract. The guaranteed contracts in the NBA force this to happen every few years, however, NFL contracts are mostly non-guaranteed so players are basically playing for a contract every year so they might not have quite the drop in commitment that NBA players have shown.
On the talent level, I must give that to the professional sports. Only the best of the best are able to make it into professional sports, just think of them as the cool kids in the really neat tree-fort that pull up the rope ladder whenever you want to play. And quite often you can see greatness on the court or on the field. However, college sports aren’t devoid of talent. Every so often, you’ll see a kid who seems to be the Jolly Green Giant playing against smurfs. But what is especially unique is when one of those players makes all those around him better as a consequence. My example being Blake Griffin of Oklahoma, he is clearly a jolly green giant but he turned his team into one of the best in college basketball this season without anyone close to his level of talent. So watching the professionals play you will have a greater chance of seeing a spectacular play than in college. And in college you’ll see more bad plays or mistakes than in the pros due mostly to the level of play being lower.
The atmosphere of games, I would have give to college sports. The fans are just more fervent than what I’ve seen at regular season professional games. The playoffs are a different story though, the games mean more to fans who might see a chance at a championship for their team. While college stadiums and arenas tend to be smaller than those in the pro leagues, take a look at the student section of any college game and they will lead the crowd in its attempt to root on their team, the pro leagues just don’t have that. Professional stadiums and arenas have a tendancy to be a bit nicer than their college counterparts, but I’m there to watch whats being played not what is surrounding it. Colleges normally don’t want to spend a lot of money on their sports stadiums since they are more focused on being institutions of learning.
The number of teams that college can offer is much more than in the pros. People are able to relate closer with colleges that are nearby than a pro team which might be a state or two away. Plus colleges keep graduating students who will root for their alma mater, so they always have an influx of new fans every year.
So given the choice between college sports and pro sports I’ll most often choose college, and if you haven’t watched much college sports go ahead and give them a shot even though they might not have as much media coverage as the pro sports. Anyway, this post is long enough. If you’ve read this far, you’re a trooper and deserve a gold star.