As the college football season winds to a close and the new year dawns upon us, sometimes a little perspective is warranted. Not too long ago, AD and I implored my then still-new-to-college-football Girlfriend to join in on the ALDLAND endeavor. Although we had no idea at the time what quasi-sports-related wisdom would come from a girl whose school had been on a 60-year hiatus from football and whose first athletic accomplishment came at the age of 28 (though, not to suggest that (1) when it came it was not impressive, (2) that many non-athletic accomplishments did not precede it, or (3) that I am or ever will be again in better shape than her), what she wrote amazed me. What follows is her story, and my reaction:
It’s 8 a.m. on an unseasonably cold fall Saturday, and I am in a sundress. I wrap my hands around a cup of Starbucks coffee, which is providing the two things I need most at the moment — caffeine and warmth. My boyfriend is already well into his second beer, warming himself from the inside out it seems.
(1) Sundresses are awesome. (2) Beer is awesome. (3) Maybe I am alcoholic. (4) Screw it, beer me.
He is wearing pants that could be — and often are — mistaken for pajamas: bright red and embroidered with the iconic G’s that represent the University of Georgia, his football team.
After over a decade of supporting my college team, the pants remain to this day a single source of admiration, praise, and high-fives greater than everything else I have ever done for UGA. When she calls them “pajamas,” all I can think is “she doesn’t get it.”
And as of today, my football team. I think of how ridiculous we would look in any other context: me shivering in a skimpy dress, he chugging beers in his PJs; but here, camped out in a parking lot four full hours before the game we’re here to see, this is considered normal behavior. I realize that I have a lot to learn, as I ditch the coffee and pour myself a mimosa.
Nevermind, she gets it.
As a graduate of a small liberal arts college, and a female one at that, I spent my formative years blissfully ignorant of the traditions and rituals of college football. And it was only after I graduated that I realized what I’d missed. I now live in Atlanta (a.k.a. the South), where college football is inescapable: at the water cooler, in the elevator, in taxis, hair salons, doctor’s offices, you name it—the first few minutes of any conversation revolve around how your team did/is doing/will do. And there is no gender bias in this phenomenon; women are as likely as men to start a conversation with the latest news from ESPN. The real divide is between those who get it and those who don’t — Fans vs. the rest of us. When two Fans meet, even if their teams are bitter rivals, they have an instant commonality;
I think this is limited to a small cross-section of Fans, who are forced into outward congeniality as a result of professional/familial relationships. I’m still waiting to meet a West Virginia fan with whom I have anything in common.
they both at some point stood in a parking lot (albeit wearing different colors) with a cooler, a grill, and a growing excitement about what would happen on the field that day; they have both experienced the rush of a touchdown, the moments that make you leap to your feet, the high-fives from strangers; and they have both felt the devastation walking away from the stadium after a loss.
The key thing she misses here is that it’s never at the same time. I spent the last Cocktail Party tailgating with good friends who made the poor decision to attend the University of Florida. Needless to say they were pretty sober afterward. I, however, don’t remember accidentally stabbing my buddy in the eye as I celebrated on the drive home.
In short, they get it. Instead of tailgates and road trips to away games, I spent my college years cheering for my school’s waterski team and celebrating Fox Day on Mills Lawn. Never heard of Fox Day? Neither has anyone else I’ve met since college. That’s the difference.
I immediately asked the Girlfriend for an explanation of Fox Day. It is incredible. It’s like senior skip day but better: (1) it is school sanctioned, (2) it includes the entire student body, (3) copious amounts of booze, and (4) the beach. Basically it’s like your boss walks into the office and says “Fuck this shit, let’s go get hammered.” Every organization needs a Fox Day.
So it is with no small amount of curiosity that I find myself dating an avid college football fan, one who has not only ushered me behind the curtain but taught me how to blend in here. I find myself wearing chunky red jewelry and waving a pom pom. I have been taught when to stand up and shout, when to sit and be quiet (it’s like Catholic mass, only with taunting and barking).
I mean Catholics are drunks too, right?
When #12 makes a catch, I shout out his name, a reflex result of my boyfriend quizzing me for weeks on the players’ names and numbers. Most shockingly, I can now watch the game and understand almost all of what is going on (though my boyfriend must still endure the occasional (and yes, annoying), “What just happened?”).
I’m not convinced she does understand. I think she’s just gotten better about knowing when it is acceptable to ask “What just happened?” and when it is not.
Still, I am convinced that everyone in this stadium knows that I’m a fraud, that I don’t belong here.
No one is paying attention to you, you narcissistic.
No matter how you dress me up, I bleed only red, not red and black (in fact, the very notion of associating so strongly with a team as to bleed in the team’s colors has always struck me as just plain gross). Maybe by the end of the season, I’ll get it. Maybe once I experience an exhilarating win, I will understand what all the fuss is about. But until then, I will sit back and take it all in—the raucous energy, the anxious faces, the 50,000 voices merged into a single one—I will enjoy the contraband beverage that my boyfriend smuggled into the stadium in his pajama pants, high-five the Bulldogs fan next to me, and cheer anyway.
Here here! Also, buy this. But make sure you’ve got a good grip on the nozzle when you pour. Otherwise, when you can’t stop the flow, people tend to get bothered by the idea that you’re peeing on them.