Everybody calls baseball America’s favorite pastime.

But it’s not.

Some argue that it’s being replaced by football, a “truly American” game.

But it’s not.

America’s favorite pastime is right here, among us, on university campuses across the country.

America’s favorite pastime is college sports.

Think about it.

In nearly every aspect, college sports have taken over their professional counterparts. This doesn’t speak just for the fraternity brothers and the state school cheerleaders. Old men, grandparents, elementary school teachers – they’ve all got the itch for college athletics.

Maybe it’s the fact that student athletes don’t get paid. Outside of athletic and academic scholarships, college athletes are forbidden from receiving any sort of monetary, salaried or other special treatment for a role on a particular sports team. Even if it is just a throwback jersey.

Maybe it’s the realization that these students are 18, 19, 20 years old. These aren’t seasoned veterans who are claiming primetime spots on TNT, ESPN and ABC. These are people who aren’t even allowed to buy a drink legally.

Maybe it’s the realization that they are, indeed, students – with finals, midterms, relationships and professors to deal with outside the grind of competitive athletics.

Whatever the reason, collegiate sports have become America’s passion.

Before continuing, there are concessions that need to be made.

College baseball will never surpass Major League Baseball and the World Series. The Frozen Four will never pull in ratings even close to the Stanley Cup Championships, for that matter. Even college football will never be able to attract the kind of revenue that the Super Bowl earns. Professional sports teams may win the battles for rating and money.

On a purely emotional and passionate level, however, their college counterparts are king.

Besides an emotional attachment, college athletics also fill voids in some sports that, without the NCAA and other university affiliated leagues, there would be no heroes, no people to look up to, no teams to cheer for – no venue for sports that are based along the East Coast, like lacrosse or field hockey.

Georgetown consistently has highly ranked, competitive men’s and women’s lacrosse teams. Fans flock from Syracuse and Rutgers just to watch these young men and women compete.

People don’t seem so concerned about the MLL.

Yes, Georgetown alum Steve Dusseau (COL ’02) was an All-American who was drafted by the Boston Cannons in the 2002 MLL draft.

With that said, no one even knows what MLL stands for. (Major League Lacrosse, in case it was really killing you.)

In addition to filling these sorts of gaps, college sports are often the end-all, be-all of many athletic careers. While opportunities for swimming, gymnastics and tennis seem to run rampant at the collegiate level, the possibilities for competitive play after college are limited to an exceptional few.

For sports such as these, unless athletes move on to the Olympic or national teams, there is nowhere further to go. For young swimmers, divers and runners, there’s nothing left after the last college meet. That’s it; throw in the towel.

With few young athletes able to dream legitimately of reaching an Olympic level in these highly competitive sports, it is the college athlete they adore.

But this is just the beginning. This doesn’t even touch on the overwhelming emotion.

Ask about women’s basketball. Despite a random blurb about Lisa Leslie, you’re more likely to hear about the University of Connecticut women’s team than the WNBA.

Ask about football. Outside of one Super Sunday, you’re more likely to hear about the BCS, the Heisman trophy and bowl games.

Ask about men’s basketball. Even now, when the NBA pulls to a climactic close, you would think that the entire country would be wrapped up in the playoffs.

Think again. It’s brackets for the NCAA, not the pro teams, which dominate the conversation from the campus quad to the water cooler. The Elite Eight, the rivalry in every league – that’s what engrosses the average sports fan. While every city will have its share of diehard NBA fans, 82-odd games of individualistic superstardom don’t capture the masses like one intense game between North Carolina and Duke.

This is not to say that there are no fans of professional athletics. But when you speak about a national pastime and when you hear cheers of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” they’re not talking about Wrigley Field or Camden Yards anymore.

They’re talking about Cameron Indoor Stadium and The Big House.

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