College football art: a slide show.

The stadium scene.
Dec. 31 2004 8:35 AM

College Football Art: A Slide Show

The master painters of the gridiron and the fans who love them.

Billy Sims, on canvas (click here to view the slide show)
Billy Sims, on canvas (click here to view the slide show)

Once college football's bowl season ends, most fans will consign the year's ecstasy to newspaper clippings, souvenir programs, and ESPN Classic marathons. But for a certain class of rabid fan, that kind of small-scale tribute isn't enough. These die-hard football fans hang their signed, numbered memories on the living room wall.

Advertisement

Most laymen know mass-marketed sports art through LeRoy Neiman, whose broad strokes and bold colors have adorned dentist offices and McDonald's franchises for decades. Neiman's bright, cheery paintings call for an appreciation of the essential magnificence of all athletes and athletics. College football art, however, doesn't evoke the sport's innate beauty or some ill-defined "thrill of the game." In a sport that's all about tradition, heritage, and heroes, the appropriate aesthetic is sober, reverent nostalgia. Like much religious art, college football paintings strive for realism that borders on photographic fidelity. Many of the most popular college football paintings are painstaking re-creations of iconic plays—the touchdown run or game-saving tackle that represents one of the few moments of pure bliss a fan will ever experience.

In the taxonomy of collectibles, a college football painting is closer to a silk-screened T-shirt than a Caravaggio. Unlike a T-shirt, a first-class football print carries both the validating aura of fine art and the cachet of exclusivity. Whether it's billed as a lithograph, a serigraph, or a giclée, a college football painting is almost always sold as part of a "limited edition" of 50, 2,000, or 10,000. When an Alabama, LSU, or Notre Dame fan hangs a painting on the wall, he knows precisely how many fans are just as crazy as he is.

Click here for a slide show of artwork that has stirred college football fans—and frustrated college football widows—over the past three decades.

Mike DeBonis is the political columnist for Washington City Paper.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Global Marches Demand Action on Climate Change

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.