I Learned to Appreciate Football, and You Can Too
With the help of a simple trick, you too can learn to love the sport.
By Jill Phelan, Saint Vincent University
Football is undoubtedly my favorite sport to watch and play, but there was a time when I didn’t feel so passionate about it, back when I was young and naïve.
Then I met Zack, my high school sweetheart. When we starting dating junior year, football transformed from a boring sport into a thrilling game that he and I bonded over. I became engrossed in it as he taught me the ins and outs of the plays, explaining to me how it all worked.
As a former band member, Friday night football games became something that I no longer just had to tolerate, and Saturdays became opportunities for me to watch the college games with Zack’s family to further expand my football connoisseurship. Now, I feel as if I’ve been an avid football fan my whole life and I couldn’t imagine living any other way. I recognize though, that there are still others who relate more to my high school self, the one who didn’t care much for sports.
To those people who are uninterested, I want to say first that that’s OK. I understand where you are coming from. What’s the point of it all, right?
However, I’d also like to say that even though sports can seem dumb and frivolous at first, taking the time to learn about them and let yourself get caught up in the game-day atmosphere can be more rewarding than you’d think. Because ultimately, watching the game can only take you so far, but partaking in the atmosphere with friends and family is what really makes the difference.
Bonding over sports can be an enjoyable social experience that allows you to connect with the people around you, and it lets you be a part of something bigger than yourself. I’ve noticed that for me, some of the best parts of watching football on the weekends aren’t even sports-related.
I love being able to chow down on some hot wings and brats while cheering (or screaming) with Zack and his family, a common sentiment among football fans. It’s like they have their own little subculture. To be honest, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed the game as much if it hadn’t been for the atmosphere that came with it.
I realize, though, that not all of you can be as blessed as I am to have an awesome fiancé to suck you into the football scene and make you fall in love. But have no fear, there are other ways to get involved in the game and join the sports conversation. If you think outside the box a little, you can invent ways to help yourself get into the game. You can be your own unique kind of fan because after all, this is America, land of the free and home of the wild cards.
For starters, I would recommend learning a little bit about how the game works before you jump on the bandwagon. You won’t really be able to fully partake in the social side of football if you have no clue what’s going on, which would kind of take the fun out it. Once you’ve got the basics down pick a team to root for, because having a team to be loyal to will help stir up the enthusiasm in your inner sports fan.
For those of you who have no basis by which to choose a team, you can try out the Miley Method (name coined by me just now) after a system that my fiancé devised.
Seeing as he likes college football better than the NFL, my fiancée came up with a process to get himself more excited about the NFL so that he could further indulge his football cravings. Here’s how it goes:
First, find yourself an NFL sticker vending machine. You know, the kind you find on your way out of the grocery store where you put in two quarters and turn the dial to get a prize (in this case, one of the thirty-two NFL logo stickers). This ensures that your selection is randomized and unbiased, and the mystery aspect makes it extra exciting.
We joke about this part sometimes, saying “The sticker gods have chosen!” or “All hail the mighty sticker machine!” after the little cardboard sticker holder is dispensed. It really makes Zack feel like he was fated to have that particular team.
After your team has been given to you, you can proceed to fulfill your destiny as a sports fan. Buy some team shirts, high-five strangers at the bar, get drunk on burgers and merriment—whatever suits your fancy. Just enjoy standing behind your team and soak it all in.
Lastly, be sure to keep the tradition going by recording your seasons. Zack keeps a notebook of the past teams that he’s rooted for by putting each year’s sticker on an empty page and writing how far into the season his team got. He also wrote down the rules for his method in the front of his notebook to make the whole ordeal more official. In case you want to do this yourself, the rules he created are as follows:
- You get what the sticker machine gives you (unless they are teams that you absolutely hate and refuse to root for—in Zack’s case, the Eagles and the Steelers—then you may try again).
- If you are given the same team two seasons in a row, you may try for a different sticker.
- Once the season for your team is over, you may proceed with selecting a team for the next football season.
Feel free to customize the Miley Method to your liking.
For instance, if you don’t want to spare the fifty cents for a sticker or can’t find a machine, you can write all the teams down and pick out of a hat. The same can be done for college football teams, or any other sport for that matter. What’s most important is just choosing a team to follow to help you find your groove. It’s all about making the experience fun for you.
So in the end, you can choose whether or not to watch sports, but I’ve found that it can be really gratifying to be passionate about a team and take the time to bond with the people who mean the most to me. And if that still isn’t enough for you, well then you can always just do it for the hot wings.