What’s right with college athletics

Published 6:56 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Last week’s story about a Jemison graduate portraying Seminole Chief Osceola at Florida State University home football games was an example of all that is right with the college experience.

Drake Anderson is a nice, smart young man who parlayed one of his talents, horsemanship, into a remarkable opportunity. Anderson dresses in authentic Seminole regalia, hops onto an Appaloosa horse and plants a flaming spear into the turf at midfield in front of more than 80,000 screaming fans at Doak S. Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.

It’s one of the most recognized traditions in all of college football.

Anderson’s story was also an example of what makes college athletics unique in the age of NASCAR and fantasy football. Without disparaging the sport and recognizing the necessity of revenue, the overload of advertisements during a race is at least headache-inducing. And the NFL is the only entity that can compete with NASCAR in terms of producing a sport that feels like it has been wrapped in that hard plastic that is so difficult to open.

Fantasy football, with grown men in jerseys drafting and trading players based on cold numbers and watching games with no real interest in the outcome is only part of a perception of the League that is hard to swallow.

Though it’s a billion dollar industry, there’s still a part of college athletics, especially football, that seems genuine, based on something besides the almighty dollar.

I haven’t seen Osceola ride Renegade onto the field, though I’m sure it would be quite an experience. I have watched Auburn’s eagle circle Jordan-Hare Stadium, heard LSU’s Bengal Tiger roar at night in the shadow of Tiger Stadium, and seen the glorified pooches belonging to Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee roam the sidelines during a game.

The only thing that might be able to top Osceola we’ll probably never see: a 15,000-pound elephant on the field at Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.