I’m not really into watching NFL football; I am really into watching people watching football. Not just football, any sports fan for that matter, but since the NFL season draws near this is the sports fan that I get to watch for the next five or six months. NFL super fans really are something special. Having a few of them in my circle of friends I’m going to have plenty of chances to watch seemingly logical, good-natured, kind people turn into primal beasts ready to destroy, or be so overwhelmingly euphoric that two sworn enemies will lock in an embrace that would put two long lost lovers to shame, because nothing beats your team winning. It’s the people watching that I get excited about during football season, not so much the game itself.
The way I found out that preseason had started was when I ran into a friend at the supermarket.
“Hey, how’s it going?” I asked
“Preseason started” He replied almost before I had finished my question. The unusual amount of hamburger meat, chicken wings and beer in his cart should have tipped me off.
Technically he hadn’t answered my question, but if you know football fans you know that there was no other way for him to answer. He stood a little taller and his eyes sparkled. Something changes in people during football season, especially at the beginning because they all have a chance to win it all. t’s the midseason that can get a little dicey, because that’s when some are already filled with doom, and don’t see a super bowl in their future. But I digress.
My high school in California did not have a good football team, so the “football culture” was not a part of my teenage years, and my family is from Denmark, so they were soccer fans. I did go to UCLA, whom I understand have a pretty good football team, and I did go to one Bruins game. I remember going to the game with four of my friends crammed into my ’82 VW Rabbit on our way to USC, that part I remember. I also remember having a good time, but if I’m being honest I can’t remember who won that game and that is why I am never going to be a true football fan. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be present on game day and support you, you crazy fan, in whatever you are about to go through while watching your team play, win or lose.
It really is amazing to watch the behaviors of die-hards. Their mood is solely dependent on how their team performs, and they will do everything they can to “help” their team along by adopting superstitions and odd rituals that they’ve either picked up that season, or had since they can remember. All of a sudden the kind of shy, timid friend you have, will dress up in a brightly colored clown wig, face-paint and scream like a banshee every time the team scores, or almost scores, or is about to score. It’s an incredible thing to watch. And when the team wins, they brag about it almost as if they were the ones who were playing themselves. On the flip side, a loss, especially one deemed unfair will turn your polite, kindhearted friend into a foul mouthed lunatic.
I may not know the difference between a tight end and a running back (those are things, right?) or have a fantasy football team, but I’ll cheer with you when you win and I’ll forgive your terrible mood when you lose. I promise I won’t get in the way or ask (too many) stupid questions. So, I’ll see you at the game. I’ll be the one who isn’t rooting for anybody, starring at you with curiosity and amusement. When everyone else is tuned to the TV, I’ll be the one watching the people. Because it’s the people that make football season fun…for me.
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