At The List, we clearly enjoy football in all its forms. High school, college, NFL, Canadian, Arena, backyard two-hand touch … just give us yard lines and first downs and a few wild touchdown dances, and we’re a happy bunch.
But as much as we love all the football we can get, it’s really Friday nights that get us going. And with college football starting its attempt to steal the spotlight this week, it made us think about how much better Fridays are.
Oh, sure. College and NFL football can have their fancy scholarships and diamond-studded championship rings, but give us a couple of local high schools down the street from each other, battling it out for bragging rights, and all is right with our world.
It may not be a popular opinion, but there’s plenty of reasons why high school football is better than both …
10. Parents in the crowd
Look around the stands at any high school football game after just about any game, and you’ll see parents cheering on their kid. Whether he’s the University of Georgia-bound star, or that skinny kid who finally got into the game, there’s a good chance he’s got parents or other family in the stands, telling everyone around them “That’s my boy.”
9. Play with the team you’ve got
In the NFL, you get to pick your new players from a pool of the best college guys in the country; in the highest level of the NCAA, you give free education to the best high school players in order to get them to play for you. In high school, though, you get the kids who live in your district, and you go try to win with them. And even if they’re no good, there’s no multi million-dollar TV contract to lose.
8. Embedding into the neighborhood
How great is it when you go see a game at a place like Valdosta, where the stadium is historic and built right into the middle of a neighborhood that supports its team like few others. It’s just one example among many of high school football teams being the pride of the neighborhood that surrounds it. At the higher levels, the fanbases get bigger, more spread out and more impersonal. We want to hear the band on our front porch.
7. One night (mostly)
Oh, there’s typically a handful of Saturday high school games each week, and they’ll occasionally pop up on a Thursday, but Friday night is home. That’s when all the big games will be. That’s when you have to choose which of all the games to check out that night. No chasing TV dollars, just kids and marching bands and Friday night lights. And maybe a cheap hot dog or two.
6. Creative nicknames
We love when teams go a little out there with their nickname. Haven’t we all seen enough Tigers and Lions and Bears and Eagles? I mean, nothing against them all, but there’s rarely anything there identifiable with the city or school or area. Some colleges do decently with this, but the vast majority play it pretty safely. The NFL is the same way. You know you’ll never see the Atom Smashers or the Syrupmakers in the NFL, right? High school wins here.
5. Ticket prices
If you’ve got a family of four, you probably can’t afford to all head to an NFL or major college game without mortgaging your house and selling off one of your two kids. Not that we’d know from experience or anything. But even a state championship game is probably going to cost you less than $100, including some food and maybe even a big foam finger.
4. Players who are just good enough
Everybody with an NFL or major college scholarship was a huge star at the lower level. They probably dominated at times and are in their school’s Hall of Fame. Heck, they might have a statue outside the stadium by this point. But in high school, lots of these kids haven’t even played before, at least not any more than getting tackled on some dirt patch down the street where they grew up. They’re just learning the game, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun to watch the scrawny kid become a starter by his senior year.
3. Shaking hands after the game
If they can do it after NHL playoff series, where half the players probably emerge with half their teeth gone, why can’t they do this after NFL and college games? All they do is have the coaches do a quick drive-by shake to placate the TV viewers, and then they’re off to talk to Erin Andrews. After high school games, every player and every coach lines up to shake hands, just like you did in Little League. It reminds us that this is a game in the end, and running into each other for 2.5 hours doesn’t mean you can’t stay friends.
2. Playing both sides of the ball
It used to be the norm, even in the NFL, many decades ago. Now, everybody’s a specialist at the higher levels. Hardly anybody even seems to play multiple positions, much less multiple sides of the ball. They just can’t handle it, can they? Yeah, well, our high school heroes will keep that fire burning. Particularly in the smaller classifications, pretty much everybody does this. But even on the AAAAAA level, it’s rather common to get your best players on the field as much as possible. Ironman football, people. It’s how it’s meant to be played. Let the quarterback make a few tackles. It’ll be good for him. Builds character.
Yeah, the NFL does it right. And major NCAA football finally took a step in the right direction with this four-team format they’ll put in a couple of years from now. But that still doesn’t come close to matching the March Madness-style intensity of the 32-team high school football playoff. Getting those brackets, examining them, making predictions and then watching it all play out is basically the highlight of our year at The List. Maybe those college boys will come around some day. But until then, we’ve got the best thing going right here in Georgia.
But we want to know what you think. Do you prefer high school football over college/NFL? Why or why not? Which reasons did we miss? Are you still ready to hit the field and play both sides of the ball? Comment here or hit us up on Twitter at @ajcprepsports to let us know.