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

The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

This Scene From All The President’s Men Captures Ben Bradlee’s Genius

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.