Mike Strange: Why watching basketball is better than watching football

Mike Strange

Here we are at year's end, in that beautiful overlap of seasons.

College football is poised to go out with a bang. That's a signal it's time for college basketball to get serious. Me, I love both seasons.

What makes football so terrific isn't necessarily what happens between the white lines when the clock is running.

Football is tailgating, traditions like the "Vol Walk," the marching band forming a Power T or dotting the "i" in Ohio, the live mascots like Ralphie the buffalo and Bevo the longhorn.

It's all too grand a spectacle to fit under a roof.

But I'll be under a roof Saturday night — the one at Thompson-Boling Arena — and happy to be there.

Tennessee plays host to Xavier, game No. 11 of the season. The good news is there are at least 18 more to come after the calendar flips to 2013.

After several decades of observing college football and basketball, let me expound on the advantages of watching basketball.

No Helmets: The players — and their emotions — are more accessible. There's no helmet, facemask, visor or shoulder pads shrouding the protagonists.

It's all there to see, 10 guys in a tank top and shorts. And the faces, the agony of a missed free throw or the ecstasy of a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

No Binoculars: TV makes any sport more intimate, but what about the live experience? Even in the upper deck of an arena, you're closer to the action than in a 100,000-seat stadium. And in the good seats, you're really close to the action. A sweaty player might land in your lap.

Want to tell the ref what you think? Chances are he'll hear you.

No Stretchers: Occasionally, you'll see a serious injury in basketball. But serious in basketball is an ankle or knee, not a head or spine.

Twice the Fun: A football season guarantees 12 games. A college basketball season offers more than twice that many. If you lose on Saturday you don't have to wait until the next Saturday for redemption.

SEC Rivalries: Is Texas A&M really in the SEC? Are Ole Miss and Auburn still members? You'd never know it by Tennessee's football schedule. In basketball, everybody still plays everybody at least once.

More Variety: As for non-conference foes, you'll probably never see Tennessee play Ohio State or Michigan or Texas, except maybe in a bowl game once in a lifetime. The Vols have hooped it up with all of the above in the past few years.

Throw in, say, Georgetown, Wichita State, Xavier. They're irrelevant in the world of big-time football. But the options for a good 40 minutes of basketball are nearly endless. And watch out for College of Charleston.

Overtime: Overtime in basketball makes sense. It's a logical extension of the game. The format doesn't change. In football, overtime is exciting but it's a departure from how the game was played in the 60 minutes of regulation.

March Madness: Finally, the crown jewel. College basketball climaxes with a true tournament to determine a national champion.

You can make a case that every regular-season game is more meaningful in football. You can make a case that the best basketball team, based on season-long body of work, doesn't always win the tournament.

But you can't argue with the drama that explodes annually during those three delicious weeks until only one team is left to cut down the nets.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 13

tvol71 writes:

College is a little better than the pros, which has always been pretty much run and gun, but I still much prefer the general excitement of college football. So many different possibilities for things to happen. Go VOLS.

VFLonthewestcoast writes:

College grove billy : it's really easy to look back at the past and be all nostalgic/sentimental. The game has changed because the athletes have gotten better and, yes, even the shooters are better as well. The game has gotten faster. If you ask me, I truly believe that the game has gotten better.

BillVol writes:

Plus, basketball is a sport that is played every day on playgrounds and in gyms, in every country in the world, by men and women. Football, on the other hand, is a sport that is played in its actual form only 12 or 13 times a year.

VOLinATL writes:

You mean, other than the incredibly boring last 3 minutes of a game that takes 30 minutes to play, what with all the time-outs and free throws?

798orange writes:

There is nothing I would put above watching the action on the gridiron at Neyland Stadium or another venue where the Vols are playing.

Vol_in_Mich writes:

"It's all there to see, 10 guys in a tank top and shorts."

Huh?

Supersayin1 writes:

Basketball kinda sucks. It doesn't get my heart going anywere near as close to the way Fooball does! Football rules and Basketball sucks!

Nothing like watching my Vols on the Gridiron!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Supersayin1:

Basketball kinda sucks. It doesn't get my heart going anywere near as close to the way Fooball does! Football rules and Basketball sucks!

Nothing like watching my Vols on the Gridiron!

No doubt..If bb trumps fb then you're not a fb fan..I don't care if UT is playing the Heller Keller school of deaf, if that game is on and UT men are playing UCLA in bb at the same time, I'm still watching fb first.

NashvillePreds writes:

Nothing has, does, or ever will, trump a big-time winning football team at The University of Tennessee.

FWBVol writes:

Mike, with all due respect, you are showing your Kentucky roots when you make your debate for basketball being better than football.

Football has big hits, the two-minute drill, spring football, the Heisman watch and, this year, Johnny Touchdown. Football is playing in 90 degree weather in September and snow in November or December. Football requires being able to adapt and adjust not just to the other team, but, with the exception of games played in dome stadiums, the elements as well.

Football is the ultimate team sport when the offensive linemen play their entire careers knowing that by design they will never touch the ball or score and the only time they will hear their number called by the PA guy is when they are guilty of a penalty.

Football is Steve DeLong, Steve DeLong and Keith DeLong...the Majors Brothers, Archie Manning at Ole Miss, Peyton at UT and Eli at Ole Miss.

Yes, football only has one game a week, but that too is part of the beauty of the game as the anticipation builds for Saturday and afterwards fans have a week to talk about what went well in victory or what went wrong defeat.

Vol_in_Mich writes:

in response to FWBVol:

Mike, with all due respect, you are showing your Kentucky roots when you make your debate for basketball being better than football.

Football has big hits, the two-minute drill, spring football, the Heisman watch and, this year, Johnny Touchdown. Football is playing in 90 degree weather in September and snow in November or December. Football requires being able to adapt and adjust not just to the other team, but, with the exception of games played in dome stadiums, the elements as well.

Football is the ultimate team sport when the offensive linemen play their entire careers knowing that by design they will never touch the ball or score and the only time they will hear their number called by the PA guy is when they are guilty of a penalty.

Football is Steve DeLong, Steve DeLong and Keith DeLong...the Majors Brothers, Archie Manning at Ole Miss, Peyton at UT and Eli at Ole Miss.

Yes, football only has one game a week, but that too is part of the beauty of the game as the anticipation builds for Saturday and afterwards fans have a week to talk about what went well in victory or what went wrong defeat.

Yeah, but Mike likes "10 guys in a tank top and shorts", he said so. Strange!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VFLonthewestcoast:

College grove billy : it's really easy to look back at the past and be all nostalgic/sentimental. The game has changed because the athletes have gotten better and, yes, even the shooters are better as well. The game has gotten faster. If you ask me, I truly believe that the game has gotten better.

This is a debate that can never be won, but it is good for conversation. Personally, I tend to agree with CGB. It is true that today's athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster, but the fundamental level of the average player is much lower than it was in earlier days, which tends, IMHO, toward less-enjoyable team play. As CBG and I have discussed before, footwork in the post is almost a lost art. We all know that free-throw percentages are atrocious. Very few players know how to set proper screens or how to use them when they are set. General awareness of time-and-score situations is very low. I enjoy the incredible athleticism of today's players as much as anybody else, but it has clearly detracted from appreciation of all the other skills which, when properly applied, give a less-athletic team a chance to win. Again, this is just my view, and I don't expect it to sway anybody who sees it differently.

johnlg00 writes:

The debate over which is better, football or basketball, is equally indeterminate since everybody will have their own preference. I love both, though I feel more of a personal connection to basketball since I have actually played and coached that sport. The two sports have their own unique characteristics, which renders any attempt to say one is "better" than the other entirely moot. To each his own!

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