Once again, I am football’s willing captive

I’m sorry.

Just wanted to get that out of the way as I’m sure some of you out there are going to ask for apologies in the coming months. Football season is here, and most of you will be dead to me.

I don’t write this wiIth pride. It’s not the man I want to be. Unfortunately, this is what my fandom has created. When I was growing up, the only consolation for the end of summer was the return of football. I would have tossed my binders out the window were it not for the Miami Dolphin decals that decorated them.

Football became a recreational drug, a way to escape the pain brought on by piles of homework. Friday nights were spent at high school football games and Saturday mornings were made for pickup football games. I returned to the house bloodied and muddied in time for the Notre Dame game on TV. The rest of the night was supposed to be spent doing my homework if I wanted to watch The Six Million Dollar Man on Sunday night. Instead, it was usually spent celebrating a big win or whining about a bad loss.

On Sundays, time was measured in four quarters. The first quarter was for church, where I was expected to ask for forgiveness for some of the tackles I’d made on Saturday morning. The second quarter began with the 1 o’clock NFL game. Even though I hadn’t touched my homework, the day stretched out endlessly before me. It wasn’t until Sunday’s third quarter, marked by the afternoon kickoffs, that the pressure started to build as my parents asked how I could have gotten any work done with all that football. (The answer was, of course, that I couldn’t.)

In the days before Sunday night football, 60 Minutes signaled the official end of the weekend. In this final quarter, my parents would watch Dan Rather as I scrambled to complete my homework. I don’t know what I would have done with myself if I had Thursday and Sunday night football, but I know it wouldn’t have included a high school degree.

The irony of my obsession is that I often become a captive of my favorite team’s successful season. When they lose, I don’t need to watch every minute of every game. A blowout loss or two frees me from watching the standings and calculating playoff chances. On the other hand, a winning streak ensures months of harried planning to make sure I’m home for the start of each game. And no, I can’t DVR the game and watch it later — the scores come at me from all angles every time I try. Every game becomes a passion play, and even my wife discreetly leaves the room if the score is too close (probably looking for my heart medication).

Alas, that is the life of a football fanatic. I fall asleep during the first night game in September and don’t truly wake up until February, a pigskin-addled Rip Van Winkle. Friends and family wonder where I’ve been, and I end up scheduling long-delayed dinners and parties for the rest of the year. And I enjoy these months, I really do.

Until September, when opening weekend arrives and I willingly surrender to the next football season.


You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.