Why does college football matter to millions of Americans?

If you tried to explain college football overseas, they might not understand why it is so important to so many people. Here’s why.

If you have ever traveled overseas, I’m sure you have marveled how soccer-mad the locals get. For the record, we Yanks get just as crazy over our version of football, and college football fans are as fanatical as it gets.

The SEC commercials have it right in one sense. College football just means more, but it is not just important in the Deep South. College football is important for many reasons, even beyond the scholarships and the revenue. College football matters, and here’s why.

College football is innocent. The players are young — some are fresh out of high school. They are playing for glory, not for money. They give everything they have, every week, on every play. There are no grizzled gridiron veterans here, terrified of injuries and grousing about trades and salary.

They can look out in the stands and see their proud moms, clad in school colors and teary-eyed with joy that her boy made it to college. They play injured, they play sick, they play in the snow and the rain. And they are happy to do it because they know that this time, this small bit of majesty that they are enjoying, only lasts for a few short years. So they play with all of the reckless zeal that we have before life teaches us differently.

I mean, in what other sport can you see a 300-pound man jump over an entire line of defenders to block a kick? That just doesn’t happen in the NFL.

College football has the best traditions. There is nothing else like it. You watch Clemson players rub the rock as they sprint downhill into Death Valley. You can see the Georgia Tech team follow a vintage 1930s Model-A coupe, dubbed the Ramblin’ Wreck, as they jog into the stadium. The flaming spear, planted proudly in the center of the field, by Florida State’s horseback mascot, Chief Osceola.

The angry bison that storms the field before every Colorado game. Oklahoma’s breakneck Sooner Schooner barreling at speed to start the games. Alabama fans wearing houndstooth everything in honor of irascible, legendary coach Bear Bryant. The fight songs, the cheers, the colors. All of these things combine to make each game a heart-pounding exercise in pageantry.

ESPN Game Day. No other sport has a program this iconic, period. I mean, you just don’t see fans in any other sport hanging out for days before game time, jostling for the best spots to get their signs on-camera. And let’s face it, the fan-made signs are freaking brilliant.

The game matters so much that people are naming their children after coaches. Players get their jerseys retired. College football matters because every game matters. College football matters because it transcends. It transcends generations, color, creed, and religion. It transcends politics. It unites its fans, even if it is just for those three hours on the field; and that is something that is all too rare nowadays.