While some are hitting their mid-season stride, football season’s been on for me since well before the draft…and I’m not talking my Fantasy drafts…which are not paying off at all, by the way.
I’m what some might call a rabid fan.
My wife says I have a “fever” – and if she means a sickness that makes my palms sweat, my heart beat faster, at times yelling out, then I’ll give it to her. Moving on…
I’m on the road a lot for my job and my companion is sports radio. It keeps me sane. It enrages me. It pumps me up. I subscribe to my team’s own radio station and have it playing on my cell phone when I’m driving my daughter to dance class, when I’m in the shower, when I’m mowing the lawn.
Get it? I like football. All football. My buddy coaches his son’s Pop Warner team and I go to the games to cheer the little guys on. I love seeing the kids wobble onto the field in their oversized jerseys, too-big helmets and grass-stained pants. They’re out there learning and getting the bug early.
I live near the local high school and see the kids out practicing after school and hear the cheers from my backyard when I take the dog out, late on a Friday night. It makes me smile and reminisce about the good ol’ days.
I never played football, per se. At least not in any organized form except for pick-up games with my older brother and buddies in our backyard. Where, undoubtedly I would be tackled and end up at the bottom of a pile, with skinned elbows, the wind knocked out of me, spitting up mud and grass.
I’ve always just loved the game. I follow Big 10, AFC and the SEC. Sure, I’ve got my favorites. There’s the memorable trip I took back in the ‘90s to South Bend, IN to experience a Notre Dame game. And it was truly an experience – from the pre-game pep rally filled with screaming students to the ruckus tailgate filled with fans, alumni and co-eds alike. I got to see the iconic Lou Holtz in action while cheering in the student section—standing the entire time.
I try to take in a Boston College Eagles game each fall with a buddy. It’s played in one of the smallest stadiums on the edge of the city, so it’s a totally different feel, but not one without tradition and passion as well.
And what’s better than rivalry games Thanksgiving weekend? You can bet I’ll be watching.
Then there’s the pros. Love the organization or hate it, they’ve managed to hold my interest and hopes for a ring each year.
I’ve got friends who travel to a different stadium each season to fulfill a so-called bucket list. But I’m not so concerned with lists. I gather a group of friends for a rival game each year and make an eight-hour road trip to my team’s home stadium. We load up in family mini-vans littered with Cheerio-s, eject the Elmo DVD and put on sports radio for the entire ride, all while ribbing each other and trash talking teams for hundreds of miles.
We roll into town, go to the local supermarket and stock up on sausages, steak tips and chicken wings, then prepare our marinades. We ice down our coolers the night before the game, then get to bed at a reasonable hour (we’re getting old now…) so we can hit the tailgate hard the next morning.
I’ve experienced the pure, euphoric high of seeing my team win…and felt the utter blow of a heartbreaking loss that has me knocked down for the rest of the day, if not into the next week.
It’s my love of the game that keeps me coming back to it. Every Sunday, Monday night, Thursday night, Saturday afternoon and mid-week.
This sickness. It’s certainly something I’ll never recover from. Because there’s no cure. There’s only hope. Hope that my beloved team I’ve followed since boyhood will win this week. Hope that my guys won’t get hurt, suffer bad ref calls or be steamrolled in the press because they did something stupid.
Hope that the game remains true in all its form, and people like me continue to love it–from the little guys who learn to play it alongside their friends to the guys getting paid millions of dollars to carry a ball down a field.
It’s a passion, a thrilling, exhilarating, heart-crushing sickness. And I love that it ails me.