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Commentary: NCAA video game a college favorite

BY DAN VERHILLE | AUGUST 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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A hypothetical guy wearing an Iowa football flat-bill walks up to a woman at a bar and boasts, “I’ve won six-straight national titles in my NCAA Football Dynasty; can I buy you a drink?”

Why has this atrocious pickup line never been uttered in the entire history of flirtation? It’s no secret, being a video-game guru is not a skill that will earn you any social kudos (or dates), but yet thousands of college gamers take the $60 hit to their wallets every year to buy the new editions of sports games that boast little more improvement than a few bug fixes and roster updates.

So why do we keep paying Electronic Arts another 60 smackers for the new NCAA or Madden title? Why do we continue to piss off our girlfriends and neglect our homework to win pixelated thumbnails of trophies? Why do we annually spend hours upon hours playing random opponents online when we know half of the matches will be decided by glitches and lag?

We can’t wait for fall

As far as video games go, sports games are decidedly the least nerdy and the only ones we’ll play with women in the room. I love a good first-person shooter and slaying dragons in Skyrim, but these aren’t hobbies we want to advertise. It’s not much better, but sports games give us a chance to show off our sports knowledge and pretend to be manly men while we smash buttons.

Also, the waiting time between January and August can feel like an eternity. Other sports can occupy our attention, but there’s nothing like the electric atmosphere before kickoff and that first vicious collision.

The hair on my neck stands up just thinking about a stadium going wild on a fourth and one with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. No video game can compare to the real deal, but it keeps the fall football pangs at bay.

We want to win it all.

First, let’s be clear about one thing: I live, breathe and bleed Black and Gold. I knew how to scream “I-O-W-A” in Kinnick Stadium every Saturday before I learned to use the big-boy toilet. I had to make an agreement with my roommates that I wouldn’t start playing “Back in Black” while I shower until it was at least July. That being said, the Hawks *most likely* will not win it all.

I know we’ve been close before, and I have full faith Vandenberg is taking us to Miami this January, but in case that doesn’t happen, I can settle to watch red confetti rain down on my computer-animated Hawkeyes as they lift the BCS championship trophy after I hung 42 points on Alabama on Heisman difficulty.

We were athletes.

Maybe we didn’t all play football, but in America, it’s hard not to dream about it. Who doesn’t want an artificial taste of being the star of your favorite college-football team? Who doesn’t want to see his own name at the top of the Heisman voting race, even if it’s an unsatisfyingly fleeting pleasure?

For most college gamers, our sports lives ended in high school, and games such as NCAA Football put us back in the same mindset of reading coverages, barking audibles, calling hot routes, and shifting packages.

For those of us who never got to click on our chinstraps before a screaming crowd, NCAA Football is our only way out of the bleachers and onto the gridiron.

We know heartbreak

As any former athlete knows, we hate to lose, and a long list of Iowa heartbreaks have channeled our competitiveness into an acute arsenal of personal vendettas for us to exact pseudo-revenge online. Is it a bit pathetic? Of course, but as painter Francisco Goya would have put it, “The sleep of reason produces monsters.”

Decidedly, the online gaming community is not the place for sportsmanship.

I may never have completely recovered from the 2010 Wisconsin game when the punter Nortman rushed for 17 yards on fourth down with 4 yards to go in the fourth quarter to keep the Badgers’ comeback drive alive, but it’s somewhat convalescing to run up the score online against BadgersFan444 by throwing deep when I’m already up 21 points.

I’ve never forgiven Trey Stross for letting Vandenberg’s pass bounce off his breadbasket in the end zone with a Big Ten championship on the line in 2009, but trouncing BuckeyeNut2010 in a shutout and asking him why he wasn’t forced to vacate his gamer tag keeps the nightmares of Rose Bowls lost from resurfacing.

All juvenile online-behavior aside (sorry, Mom), in real life, I’ll be a great sport. In fact, if Iowa loses to Michigan in the Big House this year, I’ll shake my Wolverine buddies’ hands and say, “Well played; let’s go get a beer.”

However, until my road trip to Ann Arbor, I will continue to prove that even a guy who reads Pablo Neruda in his spare time can fall victim to cursing out various college rivals like a scurvy-stricken sailor on Xbox Live.


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