My football fanaticism

One of my great joys after meeting a new guy is always when football comes up for the first time. I don’t know if it’s my gender, my hair color, my other interests, my size, my clothes or what, but it’s perpetually a surprise when I can keep up with — and sometimes out-talk — him on the sport, and particularly the NFL. Is this a shallow ego boost? Maybe, but I admit I get a kick out of it every single time.

Often in this situation, my girlfriends will laugh at me and offer that I know more about football than most guys. It’s almost as if they’re reassuring this unsuspecting male that he is not the only one who’s ever been caught off guard by this, and it doesn’t diminish his sports competence.

But enough about that — my friends also laugh at me because of my obsession. A few weeks back, when I was jumping and screaming with excitement about one of my fantasy players, one of my roommates just shook her head and told she was happy I was happy. And that’s all I needed; I don’t expect everyone to know or care as much about the NFL as I do, but man do I love it. I just love it.

I got into it during high school. I’m not sure why, but I started following sports more in general, and football drew me in most (baseball came in second). I come from a “football family,” so that, more than any other sport, is what we rally around and pay attention to, but I guess the gene didn’t kick in for me until about the time one of my cousins started a picks pool. I figured I’d join, and it got me started following games more closely, learning players and teams, and just loving the competition (it helped that I did surprisingly well considering my novice status). This year we added fantasy, and it has just increased my obsession.

But it’s not just about being the only girl in my pools and trying to beat all the men in my extended family and circle of family friends (not to diminish the enormous bragging rights and satisfaction that come with that!). Football is hands-down my favorite spectator sport, for a few reasons.

1. It works with my short attention span. Football never gets boring because the plays are constantly changing, switching between passing and rushing, offense and defense. It starts and stops at random intervals, so you have to constantly be ready. Plus, the pace of the game varies depending on the team and setting. I sometimes get bored with baseball because it’s kind of the same thing over and over again (pitch, hit, run, repeat).

2. It satisfies my need to multitask. Besides the fact that there’s something new all the time, there are always many, many things to look at. I can watch the quarterback or the lineman or the receivers or the defenders at any given point, so my brain gets to go-go-go all the time. Basketball frustrates me because there’s only one thing going on and there are only 10 guys on the field; I can only watch the ball go back and forth in the same way so many times.

3. It fits easily into my schedule. That sounds ridiculous, I know, but it’s true. I love that football happens on Sundays (and Monday nights) for professionals and on Saturdays for college, with of course the occasional Thursdays throw in. It gives me something to look forward to at the end of my weekend, while I’m trudging through a Sunday filled with homework. It also is something I can consistently get to. At school, fall Saturdays are blocked off for football, but many basketball games fall through the cracks because they’re on Wednesdays. Baseball gets difficult to keep up with because there are five games a week, and I just can’t catch them all.

4. Every game matters. Compared to most other sports, there just aren’t as many games in a season, so a lot’s on the line every time the team steps on the field, and I love that. There aren’t any throwaways or games without a weaker rotation or anything like that. Every game, every weekend, everyone who’s good has to give it their best, and one surprise loss can derail the entire season. I love the emotionality and excitement of that.

5. Football is a culture. I think for all the reasons listed above, people rally around football like they don’t often do for other sports. When the team’s at home there’s tailgating that turns the game into a day-long event; when they’re away there are watch parties with everyone gathered around the TV and jumping up and down. As I said, I come from a football family, so this point is debatable, but I believe football culture and fandom is stronger than that of any other sport. I’d argue with anyone that the Bears-Packers rivalry is pretty impossible to top.

So, yeah. I really, really love football. And I’d love to see this translate into a career in sports journalism, despite that I am a thin, blonde, dress-loving female. But even if it doesn’t, I have my teams and my fanaticism, and they will go with me to Glamour or Women’s Health or Real Simple or wherever my path leads, and I will continue gleefully surprising the males I meet.

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