photos vis SI.com and bleacherreport.com

College football is soaked in tradition and woven into the fabric and being of anyone who’s played in or attended a game. An atmosphere that can’t be replicated. Stadiums rocking to anthems known by locals and enemies alike. Attending a whiteout at Happy Valley and hearing the crowd’s roar as “We are Penn State” chants fill the air. Joining in during the Seminoles War Cry at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium after a big turnover or touchdown is an experience in person that can’t be justified on TV.

The players and coaches make up the teams and the success, but we are there for the school pride and colors, and I promise you, when I say these colors don’t run, they don’t. 

Some of us would defend our teams to the death and can’t stand to see others succeed. Some schools and fans even refuse to say the others school’s name on campus. You see, college football isn’t just a thing; it’s a lifestyle. 

A lifestyle of 6 a.m. wake-up calls on Saturdays. Rain, sleet, or snow, we pack the parking lots to tailgate. We line up outside the stadiums to cheer on our players as they enter the stadium, prepare to do battle, and defend our colors. 

Some of us are born into our colors. Some of us don’t realize and embrace the lifestyle until we attend that campus. Some of us are even lucky enough to choose our colors and defend them still to this day. Whichever way you became a fan doesn’t matter because once you’ve taken that leap, there is no turning back. You’re here, and you’re with us. 

Saturdays full of family because everyone there is your brother or sister as we fill the stadiums or gather around our TVs to support our schools and players. Saturdays, full of joy or dread based on a single outcome. Which is decided in 180 minutes filled with breathtaking and awe-striking moments. Where one mistake or a lucky bounce can turn deafening cheers to absolute silence and friends into enemies. A game’s outcome can shape not just the rest of the day but your thoughts for the next 365 days until that game is played again.

Courtesy of Fletchers Corny Dogs

Rivalries are the most important games of the year from The Iron Bowl, Red River Showdown, Civil War, Battle of L.A., Bedlam, Holy War, Notre Dame vs. USC, Army vs. Navy, and The Game. These days are marked down as soon as the schedules are released. Entire weekends are planned, and lives are changed by the outcome. When even your closest friend or lover is an enemy if they stand on the wrong side of this line. The thrill of victory and bragging rights for yet another year and the despair and humiliation of a loss sting longer than any breakup you’ve had.

You see, you don’t have to eat, breathe, and sleep college football to enjoy it either. For most just being at a game, you can’t help but be swallowed up by the atmosphere. It could take a single game to turn a single person into a lifelong fan and family member. 

As we approach what will hopefully be a season full of fans again, we can experience the ups and downs. The highs and lows with our favorite teams and family members. We can gather together and consume our food and drinks. We can get together to experience the one-of-a-kind traditions like the hawk walk, marching in, calling the hogs, dot the I, homecoming, the gator chomp, Ralphie’s run, and The Haka.

Matt Bruening sends a thank you letter to college football. For bringing back what we love and something that unifies our nation.
Courtesy of NBC Sports

College football has given me the ability to do things I’ve never thought possible, and it’s allowed me to meet people I can now call lifelong friends and brothers. It’s helped me connect more with my father and brother as we celebrated a National Championship in person. 

College football can and will bring us all together again this fall for what will feel like the first time in forever. Let’s enjoy the atmosphere, remind our enemies and family members alike what’s so special about our schools. Whether a win or loss, you won’t forget the incredible memories you’ll make and the friends you’ve made. 

To college football, I say thank you, thank you to the players and coaches who work so hard and sacrifice so much to entertain and play. Thank you to the fans, for each of us come from hundreds to thousands to millions of different backgrounds and put it all aside, for one thing, every Saturday. Thank you to college football for being a uniting entity and being why many of us wake up for Saturday Game Days!

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