I am a creature of habit. I eat fish on Monday, steak on Thursday, and Raging Burrito on Friday. My wife gets me a new Michigan t-shirt each year before the start of football season. We have had the same vacation on the Delaware shore with the in-laws every summer since we had our first child. I make the same smoked turkey with a Cajun rub each Thanksgiving. I wore the same tie on my first day of work with my first employer and then again on my last day with that same employer, 11 years later. I wore the same tie (not the same as the first day of work tie) to my high school, college, and law school graduations. I have had exactly two cars in 20 years of being a driver.
It occurred to me this morning as I was listening to the Solid Verbal podcast on the way to work and the discussion turned to the Tennessee-Florida game that college football appeals to me innately because more than any other sport, it has its own biological clock. Ever since the SEC went to divisions, we get South Carolina-Georgia and Tennessee-Florida early. We famously get Tennessee-Alabama on the Third Saturday in October. We get Georgia-Florida around Halloween, then LSU-Alabama shortly thereafter. We get Georgia's closing kick of Auburn and Georgia Tech, along with Florida-Florida State, South Carolina-Clemson, Auburn-Alabama, and the Egg Bowl. Outside of the South, we get Michigan-Notre Dame early, the Red River Rivalry in early October, and then a host of rivalry games around Thanksgiving. If realignment knocks out some of the games that act as temporal markers for the college football season, am I going to feel like my Circadian Rhythms have been disrupted? Like I'm awake at night and asleep in the day, i.e. back in college?
Is there another sport that Chronobiologists would like as much as college football? Is there another sport whose games would make sense to migrating wildebeests? The same games fill the same spots in the calendar, year-in and year-out. Professional sports, whether in this country or in Europe, get their schedules now from computers spitting out lists. Other than knowing that Dallas and Detroit are going to be at home on Thanksgiving and (more recently) that the Super Bowl Champion will be home on a Thursday night, do we know when any rivalry games are going to be played? Do we know when the Red Sox and Yankees will play, other than too damn much for the tastes of everyone outside of the Acela Corridor? Do we know when the Lakers and Celtics will play? Do I know when Real and Barca are going to meet? Or Manchester United and Liverpool? Or the Milan Derby? I suppose I know when certain college basketball games are going to be, but: (1) that is not true for the non-conference schedule; and (2) in a sport that has been reduced to a three-week season, does anything about the regular season really matter?
It's a total cliche, but part of what makes college football great is its uniqueness. It's regional, it places tremendous importance on conference titles, and it has an anachronistic bowl system with no playoff. When Tennessee and Florida meet at the Swamp this weekend and my internal clock checks off another mark in an annual cycle, I'll be reminded of another way that the sport I love is a very different animal.