I don’t often allow myself to show my age (which is 57), but I am going to do so in this post.
There are aspects of the current college sports scene in the United States that bothers me, and I am going to detail them for you now.
Much of my concern over these things stem from the fact that I enjoyed watching college sports so much as a child and young adult, but as things change, I worry about how my boys are going to remember those same aspects. Because of the changes, they can’t possibly have the same pleasure I had, and that upsets me.
Let’s start close to my home and heart, with college’s Big Ten Conference. Next year, the Big Ten Conference will have 14 teams in it. Don’t get me started.
Growing up, I loved the Big Ten, and could rattle off the teams alphabetically, geographically, and based on the school colors and where those colors appear in a rainbow. My sons, both high schoolers today, know the Big Ten well, but they mostly know it as an 11-team entity, since Penn State came in during the 1993 season. Nebraska came in 2011, and now Rutgers and Maryland are entering next school year and the whole thing is no longer classic or standard or understandable.
Numbers don’t mean anything to my boys (there are also now 10 teams in the Big 12), geography means nothing (Creighton, located in Omaha, Nebraska, is in the Big East for basketball, and Boise State, located in Idaho, was almost in the Big East for football).
It’s got to be confusing for young college sports fans, and rather than figure it out and remember what school went from which conference to which conference they might just choose to ignore the whole conference aspect of the sport. That bothers me because I loved college conference alignments.
Of course, the whole football bowl game picture changed dramatically when the BCS came along. The minute the Rose Bowl was no longer the game between the Big Ten champion and the Pac-10 or Pac-12 or Pac-Pi conference champion, it lost me.
Then you have the whole aspect of college kids going to the pros after one or two seasons, and I hate that, too. I grew up a fan of Indiana University basketball, and can name you the entire starting lineup and key bench players from the mid-70s teams and the 1981 team that won the national title.
Now, with student-athletes bagging the “student’’ part of their lives after one or two seasons, it is hard to develop a relationship with a team from a particular school. My boys do try to get to know their favorite school’s basketball and football teams, but the relationship is so transitory and short-lived that there is no long-term love affair.
Even the changing uniforms concept got my goat last week. I have actually really enjoyed seeing the Oregon Ducks football team take the field week after week with unique uniforms, and I am not sure I understand what the fuss was over Northwestern’s blood-stained uniforms designed to honor American veterans.
But I turned on a college football game last weekend between two major universities and I did not know immediately which team was which because their uniforms were so far removed from the traditional ones. Colors change, helmets change, and suddenly I am watching an English Premier League match with no idea who is winning or losing, even though the score is posted on the screen.
I know I am chasing a horse that has left the barn, but that doesn’t stop me from being dismayed. All of the changes, and the fact that even the changes keep changing, takes away from my sons one of the great pleasures I had as a kid and young adult.
And so my sons go down into our basement, turn on the X-box and trade players from one team to the next, willy-nilly, creating super teams with no identity.
I will bet you I can get a psychologist to point to all of this as a dissociative pattern that is dangerous. And I would do that, but I’m too busy trying to figure out why Notre Dame is in the Atlantic Coast Conference.