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  • Joseph Meade

What College Basketball and Football Can Learn From WWE

Who Remembers their phase with WWE? Whether it is still ongoing or way in the past, you likely had one or someone close to you did. On this site and on our social media, we have talked about the more popular leagues in our country. However we have not discussed WWE, WCW, AEW, or whatever you called it when your parents made you stop watching it after a tables, ladders, and chairs match in your living room went wrong. A figure who we will discuss is not actually a wrestler, rather he is considered one of the great minds of wrestling. But more on this later. Let me pain a picture.

The College Football and Basketball offseason leads to many different storylines. These not only involve teams, they also involve a whole bunch of other stuff. Stuff is the PC version for some four letter word that coincidentally shares the same first letter. Perhaps your mind goes to conference expansion/destruction or NIL. However, a spotlight in the past few months has been cast upon TV networks. No, I promise you this article is not about the war between NBC, ABC, ESPN, CBS, FOX, and whatever other network tries to monetize the sport. Frankly, many ‘real football guys’ are not into that stuff. Even if one is, it is merely a coping mechanism or an extension of some other interest from the sport to get through a long day of the offseason at their 9-5.

Regardless of a ‘football guy’s’ opinion on networks, viewership, and what have you, a unanimous opinion would be that none of this matters to them in the big picture. Again, this can come from a variety of reasons. Most cite their allegiance to their school or the fact the college football money machine (a machine I will not bother explaining). The money made from college football highly outweighs that of the other major college sport covered vehemently on this blog. College football is a money machine and we love to watch it.

So you are probably wondering why college basketball is also discussed here. The difference between college football and basketball is a road we have gone down either on this blog or in your own head far too much so I will save you the speech. Ultimately, there are issues with both sports, some of which can be addressed immediately but many of which can only be dealt with in the gray area. Regardless of the differing states of both, each has their die hard set of fans. At least one also has a unique aspect to it which no other sporting or cultural activity can replicate.

Getting out of the emotional rhetoric, where is this article going? Despite everything discussed, both sports are in danger. It is not from NIL, the issue of conferences, the ever imperfect playoff system, or the big bad TV Networks. No, I am gonna go for the lowest hanging fruit argument you heard your least favorite grammar school teacher give. The good ole “it happened to him, so it can happen to you” speech applies perfectly. Anyone who has taken a sports history class, talked to the elder folks of their community, or had slight inference skills knows where this is going. It happened to baseball, to boxing, to the Olympics, and plenty of other sporting events.

Yes, those sports are not dead and a big enough star will attract interest in them here and there, but they are not the headliner or main event. They do not attract the casual viewer or casual fan, something every league professional and collegiate strives for. What we will call the Nick Saban theory is that the NFL strives for every team to be 8-8 into the final week so every fanbase and faction of the country is tuning in. Essentially it is about making the sport matter to the highest degree.

This is where your passtime or your goofy buddy’s obsession comes into play. For the good number of you who are not current pro wrestling fans, you likely know a few names still in the industry. And to be fair, if you do, most of the guys you name are mainly actors in Hollywood and not full time wrestlers with John Cena being the primary name. Regardless if you know the newer stars of pro wrestling, they are doing a killing. The ratings and gates for their Premium Live Events (similar to a Pay-Per-View) have never been higher and tickets to WrestleMania 40 (the WWE Super Bowl) broke the company's all-time gate record in one day.

If you got nothing else from that, just understand that WWE whether you watch it or not matters more than ever before if we are going off the numbers. However, many people may object because to them it lacks a star or someone who was a star back when they watched. This brings us back to the beginning of this article. Regardless of whether you believed WWE was a dying brand or not, the metrics and facts show us it is thriving.

So what have they been doing well? Here is another twist, the man who answers this is not a wrestler and never has been. His name is Paul Heyman, he has been at all levels of wrestling from the production side, the ambassador side, and being the on-air manager for some of the biggest stars in the business like Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. Think of him as a super agent who can also help influence the outcome of the storylines. Now remember the word storyline, this is what will bring us home.

WWE’s resurgence in viewership started in 2021 and around that same time Paul Heyman was asked about the company’s approach to draw in fans. While the sport and business is complicated, Heyman stressed that getting interest was rather simple. So simple that he narrowed it down to three questions. “Who are these two people? Why are they fighting? Why should I care enough to pay to see it”( Heyman went on to claim that if the show could answer these three questions, there is no need for complicated layers of storytelling.

With all that said, sometimes a simple explanation like Heyman’s from two years ago resonates in an offseason where all we get is complicated questions beyond the preview magazine season from June to now. Most of what is laid out in the beginning of the article shows how complicated two of our beloved sports has made storylines. In reality though as long as fans can identify or care about the teams playing and enough about the games they play in, it is more than plausible to assume our two beloved sports will continue to survive and thrive just as WWE has. Though a famous saying notes that the beautiful and terrible thing about the future is that we cannot predict it, we can certainly hope that College Football and Basketball continue to matter.

Photo from: Wrestling News

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