Halfway through what ESPN is calling “a year-long, multi-platform storytelling experience,” there are some things to be learned from College Football 150: The American Game. This multi-layered series marks ESPN’s celebration and exploration of 150 years of college football.
“The American Game” is an 11-episode documentary series focusing on college football’s history “by exploring themes that have made the sport an integral component of the American landscape”. These segments are billed as “a definitive look at the history of college football as not just a sport, but as a cultural phenomenon as well.” The American Game airs on Tuesdays, with reruns throughout the college football season.
The Greatest Series
“The Greatest” is another part of the ESPN series whose 30-minute segments look at topics like the all-time best uniforms, rivalry games, bands. coaches, teams, and mascots. An 11-member jury chooses the candidates for each list, and debates their relative merits before revealing the final verdict. Video nominations highlight the choices and predictions. “The Greatest” shows air on Thursdays, and in multiple reruns.
Football is Us
“Football is Us: The College Game” is one of two, 90-minute documentaries exploring the evolution of the sport. The other is “Football Is Us: The College Player”, which airs for the first time next week. The first documentary focuses on the history of the game, while the second looks at outstanding players over 150 years. Each of these longer pieces expands on topics from the other parts of the College Football 150 series.
The one-hour show on recruiting has been the most illuminating so far in the series. From the 1920s, when schools actively “subsidized” athletes who may or may not have been enrolled students to the beginning of athletic scholarships in 1936, and today’s booster support and scandals, the show spotlights just how far schools will go to win. The recruiting show is excellent television.
The “Evolution of the Game” is, arguably, the best hour of television ever produced on the history of college football. The forward pass, platoon football, equipment innovations, and more are detailed by when they happened, and in how teams adapted to the changes.
Saturdays in the South: A History of SEC Football
Another separate offering is the SEC series which details how, and why, schools in the South became major players in the college game. The show details how legendary coaches and administrators recognized football’s benefits, and how the game could sell the universities to parents, fans and corporate boosters. This is 12 hours of pure SEC programming, taking a deep dive into how the SEC became the power player it is today.
Iconic videos liberally spice all of the College Football 150 programming. From the California band touchdown and the Doug Flutie Hail Mary to a Bo Jackson run, and the Desmond Howard Heisman pose, there’s incredible footage that chronicles all aspects of the game. The replays alone are enough to recommend the series to all college football fans.