The Plight of the Superfan
I’m not a religious man in the strict sense of the meaning, but I do adhere to a set of morals and practices that dictate my life. September through February I dive into a rigorous six-month schedule that stretches my emotions, relationships, and mental stability as far as they can go, sometimes destroying them. I spend an average of 400-500 hours during a season watching football games, which includes the professional and collegiate levels. Since the time I became invested in being a full-time fan in 8th grade, this amounts to over 6,000 hours. Now that I look at this in writing, I’m a little disturbed. Not to mention the hundreds of other hours wasted on watching highlights and listening to analysis. I’m sick.
My love for the game of football has always outweighed my lack of varsity playing ability. I navigated my way through four years of school sponsored “glory” (8th-11th grade), relying mostly on the fact that nobody else had reached puberty yet. Once senior year rolled around and my height and weight were for once insignificant, I decided that it was time to hang up the cleats on an insignificant career. I transitioned well into my life after playing football. It left me with a fractured leg, and many terrible memories of being screamed at by coaches, spit spewing from their mouths, and lockers trembling from the quake of their hardened fists. I gracefully bowed out to devote my talents to shouting at the TV on Sundays as Da Bears blew another fourth quarter lead. I may not have been very good at playing football, but I’m a damn good fan. A Superfan.
This passion has consumed every inch of my life from the clothes I wear, my car, my house, to the tattoo I will inevitably get and never regret. I own every piece of Chicago Bears memorabilia one could imagine: t-shirts, sweatshirts, jerseys, athletic shorts, ball caps, winter hats, a Santa hat, rain coat, winter coat, wallet, key chain, lanyard, welcome mat, rug, license plate covers, ‘Chicago Bears Avenue’ street sign, multiple fan signs on the walls of my bedroom, a toaster, a bottle opener, Chicago Bears Monopoly, a piece of a game used football framed with a picture of my favorite player Brian Urlacher, a Brian Urlacher bobble head, a blue and orange Beta fish named Urlacher, mini helmets, a teddy bear, pencils and pens, two different sets of cups plus three different types of mugs, magnets on my fridge, a large fleece blanket that adorns my bed, an iPhone case, a cooler, and many more knick-knacks that I can’t remember because there are so many. I can’t help myself. When I see something branded with that beautiful orange C and growling bear face I have to have it. The game of football does strange things to a man. And, why, I’m sure you ask does a boy from the plains of Eastern Montana like the Chicago Bears? Lived there? Nope. Family? Nope. I’ll tell you why; it’s because the only major city I have family in is Denver, and for some reason I could never force myself to truly like the Donkeys. Montana is one of the last remaining places that Grizzly Bears still roam the wilderness (it’s our state animal) and my alma mater is the University of Montana Grizzlies. It seemed only natural to feed into my pre-disposition toward bears. Also, the feared ‘Monsters of the Midway’ moniker was enough to arouse my adolescent interests.
Why do we love balls so much? Yes, some of you just giggled. But, the question remains. As I mentioned, I have some kind of fetish for brown leather ovals. But, I also realize that I genuinely get excited for other types of sports as well. Buzzer beaters, slam dunks, no-hitters, grand slams, eagle putts, power plays, penalty kicks—I love this shit. And, then I love to binge on the SportsCenter analysis afterward. And, then I love to open ESPN on my smart phone and binge on written analysis while SportsCenter repeats in the background for the third time. But, why? Does any of it matter? Probably not. Yet, I still feel compelled to be invested. There are sentiments out there that sports fans are immature, and out of touch with reality. This is true in a lot of ways. But, maybe it’s more complicated than simply a lack of maturity. Maybe these super fanatics, me included, are truly suffering from some kind of addiction or disease. It sounds silly, and maybe a little biased, but the sports world is a serious business hell bent on making profits and converting average citizens into rabid animals. People have literally rioted in the streets of major cities across the world because of sports. I’d like to think I’m above this level of zealotry, but I have yet to be faced with this type of situation. Maybe tipping over burning cars and looting is my thing. Maybe I’ll actually be really good at it. I guess only time will tell.
Eustress, a term coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye, is the positive cognitive response to stress that is healthy, or gives one a sense of fulfillment. This is basically the “high” that one feels after an accomplishment or success. I describe it as a swirling emotional concoction of pride, joy, and hysterics. This is the shit sports fans get a Louisville Slugger hardon for, ladies and gents alike. Even if you aren’t a fan of sports, and you’re reading this for pure intellectual engagement, or whatever you tell yourself at night, you know the feeling. Lots of things could trigger it: getting an ‘A’ on an exam, a raise at work, finishing a hard workout, first place pig at the county fair, someone telling you that your shitty haircut looks nice. You want to march around the room boasting how awesome you are, while also on the verge of hysterically crying, while also letting out maniacal bursts of laughter like The Joker. This term kept popping up as I looked into research on the subject of sports fandom and I was intrigued at the implications. How does this positive stressor affect a person sociologically in their communities and how does our biology affect our attachments to sports? I figured there had to be studies out there about sports fans and their fanatical behavior, and I also figured there must be scientists smarter than me who were interested in this shit as well. And, there were.
Let’s bring it back all the way to 1976. Groovy. A cool cat named Robert Cialdini teamed up with some other cool dudes and developed a righteous research project. They wanted to observe the effects that football games at large universities had on the apparel of students the following weeks. Researchers travelled to seven different colleges including Ohio State, Michigan, and Southern California where they were placed in basic level psychology courses to observe. Their results demonstrated more students wearing team and school affiliated apparel after the team won their previous game as compared to a significant drop in school apparel after a loss. This phenomenon came to be known as “BIRGing” or “Basking In Reflected Glory.” The opposite side of this spectrum is called “CORFing” or “Cutting Off Reflected Failure.” It’s a pretty simple concept: A) Team wins and you want to show your team spirit and feel like a badass in front of your peers. B) Team loses and you want to erase all traces of your affiliation with this vile embarrassment of a sports franchise.
The results of the study overwhelmingly showed a pattern of sociological awareness of the outcomes of games. This affected a big enough population of the students that the amount of school apparel worn the week after a game was noticeably different based on the outcome. This definitely shows residual social effects from large-scale popular sporting events, but didn’t quite touch on the possible biological factors, like how eustress plays into it. Can one feel physiological effects of sports binging?
In 1998 a dude named Paul Bernhardt and his posse published a trial they had done testing the testosterone levels in male sports fans before and after watching their favorite teams play in “important” games. Important of course meaning a Georgia vs. Georgia Tech basketball game in 1991 and Italy vs. Brazil in the 1994 World Cup...
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, responsible for sexual and physiological development in males. It has also been known to increase active and/or aggressive behaviors. The researchers used cotton swabs to obtain saliva samples before each participant sat down to watch the game (actually at the arena for the basketball game, but a televised broadcast for the soccer game) and then again a few minutes after its conclusion. The hypothesis was that watching a game of significant meaning with peers might affect the levels of testosterone being produced. This was a logical assumption seeing fans of sports are often seen emoting actively and/or aggressively during sporting events.
September 13, 2012.
It is time for war. I am plastered in blue and orange. Bears athletic shorts, game day shirt, blue no. 54 Brian Urlacher jersey, blue hat with orange C. The first Thursday Night Football game of the season is the oldest and most intense rivalry in the NFL, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. I curse all those associated with our rival clan, even close friends. The warriors don their armor and prepare for battle. They dance around in circles with exaggerated motions and guttural cries of intimidation. I find myself joining in the ritual in the living room. I condemn our challengers to a fate worse than death. We are all united through a single television broadcast. Our gladiators sacrifice their lives in the name of righteousness and glory. We sacrifice our sanities for the same thing. War is not always the best answer, but in order to preserve the pride of our clan, war is the only answer.
The Bears keep it close in the first half. I puff out my chest, and leap into the air each time we exert our dominance. My exclamations of triumph can be heard for miles. I must rejoice as they do. I scream in disgust, and inflict self-injury each time the rival exerts their dominance. My anguish can be felt for miles. I must suffer as they do. I survive only in the moment.
The game is out of hand by the fourth quarter. My partner Alexa has endured through the thrill ride of emotion associated with this battle, mostly because we live in a studio apartment and she literally has nowhere else to go. She does not care for the game, but has become of the Bears clan by default. She is admirable in her attempt to watch the game with me, but my psyche becomes unstable, and cannot support this fifth loss in a row to the rival Packers.
“It’s not fair!” I shout. I rip off my jersey and slam it into the ground. I tip over a TV tray and throw an empty Gatorade bottle against the front door.
“Eric Jacob Toennis! Do not act like that!” Alexa commands.
“We can never beat them. I can’t handle it anymore! God Damnit!”
I grab my hair and desperately try to rip it out. I slam my head against the arm of the couch.
“My team never wins. I should just fucking kill myself. It wouldn’t matter anyways.”
“I can’t believe you right now,” Alexa says. “I am never watching a Bears game with you again.”
“I don’t fucking care. Leave me the fuck alone!” I bury my face in a pillow. I cannot control my emotions. My phone is flooded with messages from snide and unremorseful friends whose only intentions are to hurt. I turn it on silent and continue my lamenting. I refuse to watch SportsCenter for the next week, and avoid all Bears associated paraphernalia.
I later apologize, and admit my fault to Alexa, but she keeps true to her word. She avoids watching football with me at all costs, and breathes a sigh of relief every time she works on Sunday.
So, back to 1998, Mr. Bernhardt and his minions are testing testosterone levels in male sports fans before and after viewing a sporting event using saliva samples collected with cotton swabs. In the first study, the basketball game, 8 males participated and the gang found out that testosterone levels in the saliva of the winning team’s fans were significantly higher than the losing team’s fans. Similarly for the soccer game 21 males were tested and the same result was observed.
It seems that the testosterone increase in the winning team’s fan would contribute to that eustress high we discussed earlier. Therefore the subject would seem to be more open to expressing this sociologically by “BIRGing” (Basking In Reflected Glory) and wearing some team-affiliated apparel or sparking up conversations with peers about the team or game. Conversely, the losing team’s fans had a decrease in testosterone most likely causing feelings of distress. This would increase the likelihood of that person “CORFing” (Cutting Off Reflected Failure) and isolating themselves from groups, and avoiding anything related to that team.
It appears that physiological processes do have an impact on a fan’s emotional response to sporting events. One could possibly become addicted to that happy feeling when their team wins, which would mean drastic lows for fans of the losing team.
December 18, 2009.
The University of Montana Grizzlies blew a 14-9 halftime lead in the FCS Championship game, and my face glowed red. We were dangerously close to losing the big game for the second year in a row. I sat cross-armed on the floor, my dad sat on the couch next to me.
“This is bullshit,” I said. I stood up and took off my Grizzlies jersey. I threw it against the wall and tipped over both of the banana-shaped gamer chairs that had been rocking gently next to me.
“Don’t act like that, Eric,” my dad said.
“Fuck you,” I yelled at him.
“If you’re going to act like that, I’m not going to watch games with you anymore,” he said.
“I don’t give a fuck,” I grumbled.
He rose from the couch and slammed the door to the downstairs behind him. I heard his footsteps trudge up the stairs. I picked up my jersey and threw against the glass door wishing it would break. I sat down and bathed in my own self-pity.
Now, I did mention that the previous study was only of male fans and I can only assume that is because testosterone is present naturally at much higher levels in males than females. But, there are just as many women out there that are die-hard, bleed for their team Superfans. I figured for the sake of science there had to be a study out there testing females in a similar way. We need all the data, people; we don’t half-ass things around here.
To be completely honest, there was a real lack of studies in this department because of the nature of testosterone being primarily associated with male physiology. Females also have low levels of testosterone naturally present in their ovaries, but it is not as important to female growth and development. So, the only study I could find was not actually testing female fans, but female soccer players from two opposing teams. This causes a bit of trouble since we were mostly looking at fans and one can assume that athletes tend to go through more intense bouts of highs and lows during the game than the average fan, it being their job and all. But, the results should suggest a pattern of hormone responsiveness in humans in these types of situations.
In 2009, a group of researchers from an institute in Portugal conducted a study with 33 female soccer players from opposing sides of the championship match of the Portuguese Female Soccer League. The focus in all of these studies has been that the match be “important” to the parties involved whether it is a rivalry game, or a championship match. These researchers found basically the same results as the previous study with the winners showing higher testosterone post-game and the losers with lower levels. They also conducted pre- and post-game questionnaires with each player to gauge their moods, which they found to be parallel of the testosterone levels.
So, the results would suggest that females have a similar biological response to sporting action. Testosterone seems to be the chemical culprit in helping to create a euphoric state of mind that fans get off on when their team wins. This to me seems like the main reason that someone can literally become addicted to being a sports fan. The body is releasing chemicals in the brain that cause you to feel happy and when that feeling is not present because of that team losing, you long for it. You want so bad to feel that rush of excitement, the tingling all over the body, the uncontrollable laughter, and the chest swelling to enormous proportions because of pride. But, what other consequences can arise from this? Residual effects?
A compulsive behavior is an act that is performed persistently and repetitively without it leading to an actual reward or pleasure. I have developed certain abnormalities since becoming emotionally invested in the sport of football. My brain now perceives these actions as routine rather than conscious decision-making. Here I present to the beloved readers a typical day in the life of a compulsive sports-crazed lunatic during my peak undergrad years circa 2012:
7:45 a.m.: I turn on ESPN and watch SportsCenter and log on to ESPN.com to check the Bears blog for any new posts. It is still early in the morning so most of the time nothing is posted, but I have to make sure.
9:00 a.m.: My girlfriend Alexa is in class, and I sit in the Liberal Arts building on campus waiting for my first class. I lift my computer from my bag and immediately log on to ESPN.com to check the blog again just in case something was posted in the last hour. I need to be up to date on any breaking news. Nothing is posted yet, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
11:00 a.m.: I have just finished my first class and I sit in the University Center on the second floor seating next to the railing. I pull out my computer and log on to ESPN.com to check the blog again. If there is nothing, I browse the rest of the website killing time. Every few minutes I check the blog, hoping for any tiny bit of fodder to chew on.
3:00 p.m.: I have just finished my last class of the day. I meet up with Alexa and we drive home. We get inside the apartment and I make a direct route to the remote. I turn on SportsCenter and pull out my computer. I lounge on our couch and log on to ESPN.com to check the blog. Alexa shoots me a look of disgust, and changes the channel. She doesn’t realize that one broadcast of SportsCenter a day is not enough. By this time in the late afternoon, a few posts have usually been uploaded. I read each article in full, analyzing the text with precision until I have to haul my ass to my bullshit retail job. I put on my blue hat with a large orange C embroidered on the front and scurry out the door.
5-9 p.m.: I perform the tasks that are asked of me upon arrival at work. At around 6:30 the store dies and we receive approximately 5 customers the rest of the night. I create a hideout in the warehouse behind large cardboard boxes containing everything from toolboxes to welders. I pull out my IPhone and open my Chicago Bears app. It connects directly to the team website where I can read articles, watch videos, and browse through a multitude of different player statistics. I spend most of my shift exhausting this app of its resources between calls up to front for customer assistance and providing my services as a backup cashier.
9:30 p.m.: I arrive home from work. Alexa is watching one of her shows she has recorded on our DVR. It’s usually Grey’s Anatomy or something lame like that. I snatch my computer from the table and cannonball on to our Bears themed bed. I log on to ESPN.com and check the blog. I read through the posts of the day again, making sure I didn’t miss any small detail that could be significant. I venture to NFL.com for a few minutes to check up on any league news I am not already aware of before starting my homework. Then, I sleep.
Another major stereotype of the sports fan is that we are all superstitious, magic believing lunatics. I want to set the record straight that we take no offense. One of my friends once sat in his bathroom for close to an hour during a University of Montana game because every time he would step foot into the living room, something would go wrong for us. We growled at him to get back into that damn bathroom. He didn’t mind. He understood the implications. He was a true team player that day.
Superstitious behavior has been around since the dawn of man. It is the belief in supernatural causality, which is the certainty that one event leads to another without any physical process linking the two events.
It is a simple blue shirt with orange block letters that read “BEARS” placed on my pectoral region. The NFL logo rests on top of the orange print. I have had it since 2006, the last time the Bears reached the Super Bowl. I adorned it on my torso for as many Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays as I can remember for a good 5-6 year stretch. It’s honestly pretty fucking disgusting and worn out by now, but I keep it in the closet for the memories and the possible remnants of good fortune. Those close to me know of it fondly. No one knows it quite as well as my dear Alexa whom has endured many a tirade about this piece of cloth.
December 1, 2013
“Alexa! Where is it?!” I screamed through the walls of our apartment.
She knew how important it was to me. She knew I wore it every Sunday. How could she forget? I slashed through my closet in hot pursuit of my one and only game day shirt. I could not watch the game without it, or else I would be subject to bad juju. The closet was a dead end. I threw the lid of the hamper open almost ripping it off its hinges. I shoveled piles of clothing on to the floor, praying to a God I didn’t believe in that it would show itself.
“What is the deal, kid?” Alexa asked as she entered the bedroom. “Why are you acting like a psycho?”
“Where is my game day shirt? You know I wear it every Sunday,” I said.
“It’s probably in the washer still,” she stated without any concern.
“Are you fucking serious? The game starts in an hour! I need that shirt!” I yelled.
“Calm the fuck down. Throw it in the dryer, and it will be ready in 45 minutes,” she said rolling her eyes.
She acted like it was no big deal, but she didn’t fully understand the delicate balance of karma and juju. It wasn’t just superstition. It was routine. A very solid routine with its roots in observed fact. There was no room for error when we engaged in battle.
Now, this brings me to the big ol’ smelly elephant in the room. Fantasy Sports. The Big Kahuna of turning the average fan into a beast with an insatiable thirst for glory and riches. According to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2016, the casinos in Las Vegas pulled in about $4 billion dollars from sports betting in 2015 and it was estimated to balloon to about $5 billion in 2016-2017. Not to mention that there are estimates out there in the hundreds of billions for the illegal gambling world. So, basically, people love money and sports and they love to throw their money at sports in hopes of acquiring more money. And, fantasy sports are one of the leaders in this industry. I can’t deny that I am thoroughly embedded among the droves of zombies whom participate in the annual Hunger Games that is Fantasy Football.
I can proudly (or shamefully; depends on the day and the audience) say that I have been the commissioner of a league now for a half-decade or so. Let me clarify something here, I am askew from the norm when it comes to fantasy sports and gambling. Despite coming from Montana where it’s basically the Wild West of gambling laws and I kid you not there are probably about ten casinos between my house and the grocery store, I do not partake in gambling often if ever. My enjoyment from fantasy comes from the pride of assembling a roster and using my knowledge and wit to emerge from the flames of war victorious. And, I love to trash talk. I love the thrill of texting an opponent about how their team “was ruthlessly bludgeoned to death,” or “eats a balanced diet of dog shit.” I didn’t say we were civil about it. In fact, these were the most censored things I could think of.
The basic premise of fantasy sports is simple: you assemble a team of players from a pool that includes every athlete on every team in that sport. This is done via a draft with other team managers where everyone takes turns picking. Then, you get points based on that athlete’s performance in their game that day and those points match up head to head with your opponent’s players. Each sport has its own intricacies. The two most popular are football and baseball and each is vastly different in style. The baseball season is a 162 game stretch from spring to autumn and the task of fantasy baseball is only for the truly dedicated. One must remember to set their lineup of pitchers, batters, and fielders daily with real MLB games happening every day during the season. This also means one must really delve deep into the pool of players because pitchers don’t play every game in baseball plus the multitude of other statistical variants possible in baseball. This is for the real day in and day out grinders, the true baseball junkies who will sit and take statistics in a book at every shitty minor league game at the shitty ballpark in their shitty hometown.
The opposite of this experience is the fantasy football experience. Games only happen once a week in the NFL making the room for error much smaller. Every player on a baseball lineup will get a chance to swing away at the plate at least once per game, but football can be much more fickle. Sometimes players won’t even touch the ball in a game depending on what defense they’re matching up against and the game plan for the offense that day, which can radically vary from week to week. Instead of worrying about setting your lineup every day, the lineup sits in flux for a whole week while you read every bit of news and analysis wondering if this is the right player to start on Sunday before changing it last minute in the morning the day of and then regretting it the rest of your life.
Fantasy sports are like a good game of chess. A game of chess that can possibly win you a shit ton of money. It stimulates our brains and our wallets—how can we refuse? This is obviously just the tip of the iceberg, as I haven’t even touched on daily fantasy sports. This platform allows you to pick any sport that day and put yourself in a random pool where one participates in an auction, putting up real money, to gain the rights to that player for the day. And, then you start fresh the next day will some more dough or a gaping mortgage-sized hole in your pocket. I could literally write another essay about this arena alone, but I digress. I will proudly carry the torch and fly the flag of my League until there is no will in my fingers left to change lineups and make trades.
I often wrestle with myself (a whimsical image and an intentional sports metaphor) over my fandom of sport. For the purpose of this drill, let’s imagine the two dominating and opposite sentiments about this issue as two clones of me. We’ll call my two selves Leopold and Brad. Leopold is probably wearing some sort of ironic t-shirt with a cartoon character from his youth or a nice plaid button-up with a collar. Brad is in matching Chicago Bears hat, shirt, and phone case, and depending on if it’s game day maybe a jersey too. Both are probably wearing cargo shorts because well, I like them, and they’re ergonomic. These two square off in a fantasyland Pokémon-like battle arena in the dark and scary jungles of my mind.
Brad: “I fucking love sports! I bleed these colors!”
Leopold: “You’re such a douche bag.”
Brad: “Screw you, bro! We have a real shot at the chipper this year!”
Leopold: “Nobody cares. Sports are lame, and honestly a little barbaric.”
Brad: “I’ll show you barbaric, bro! Sports have a real world impact on social connectedness in communities and can help develop steady economic growth as well, Ass Face!”
Leopold: “Yeah, well what about the economic despair some countries go through after hosting large sporting events like the Olympics? And, not to mention the domestic abuse and rape cultures that continue to brew in professional and collegiate sports in America. You mindless twit.”
Both are defiant and stand their ground. Brad storms off in a fit of rage tearing the jersey off his back and slamming it to the ground. Leopold scoffs in a pretentious sort of way and puts on his bright pink sunglasses before lighting up a cigarette.
The logos of major sports leagues are plastered throughout the world on clothing, billboards, television, radio, and absolutely anything that can be marketed as a product. Major corporations like Coke, and Nike sponsor our universities’ sports programs. From the time we are children our parents dress us in team attire hoping we will keep the legacy of fandom alive for generations after they are put in their league sponsored caskets.
Not only does family put pressure on the psyche, but professional athletes are also portrayed as super human beings to be mentioned in the same breath as Superman and The Hulk. I can remember as a young kid in the 90’s thinking Michael Jordan and John Elway were invincible beings, devoid of fault. They were the epitome of role models for a young and blossoming child. The revelation later in life that these men were actually less than perfect humans struck a deep nerve that still hasn’t quite healed. How could anybody who defeated an alien race with the help of the Looney Tunes be a jerk?
This is why we love balls (even the deflated ones). We all strive for greatness, and most of us will never be great. Most of us will live our lives to whatever extent we can and then fade away into the dark abyss of time and space. But, until then, these balls give us a purpose, connectedness, selflessness, but most importantly a distraction. And, of course there are breeding grounds for wickedness in this industry as my intelligent clone Leopold previously stated. I think with the Internet being a staple in our lives, we are all learning there are evils in every part of this world. That’s why I need sports..
But, I know I take it too far. I plan my life around it. I put strain on my relationships for it. I lose my temper over of it. But I can’t imagine myself without it. Such is the plight of the Superfan.
Football season doesn’t end for me in February after the conclusion of the Super Bowl. Football season literally never ends for me. While everyone else starts worrying about basketball, hockey, and life in general, I start to worry about the NFL draft two months down the road.
“If the Bears don’t pick a god damn offensive lineman this year, I’m going to freak out,” is my thought process basically every year. There really should be an option on the team website to send suggestions. I’m not saying I could do their job better, but give me a shot. They don’t have to pay me. I only need the satisfaction of helping my team win it all. And, I could probably do their job better.
After the draft, four months of grueling offseason camps and workouts begin which I make sure to stay updated on through my subscription to NFL network, ESPN.com, and NFL.com. The competition for the second-string spot is always the most intense. Again, a suggestion box might benefit greatly.
Being a superfan does have its advantages. Say if someone passed me on the street, and needed to know who won the Super Bowl for the 1999 season, I’d tell them it was the St. Louis Rams over the Tennessee Titans by 7 points. Kevin Dyson was the sickest man in the world after coming up a yard short of the tying touchdown as time expired. Kurt Warner held up the MVP trophy and laughed in his face.
If someone else wanted to know who was drafted no. 1 in the 2006 NFL draft, I’d tell them the Houston Texans picked Mario Williams, defensive end out of North Carolina State. No. 2? The New Orleans Saints nabbed up Reggie Bush, running back out of the University of Southern California. No. 3? The Tennessee Titans snatched Vince Young, quarterback from the University of Texas (who a couple months prior had won the national championship against the University of Southern California and their Heisman winner-Reggie Bush. And, don’t get me started with this whole “the NCAA took away his Heisman” bullshit. He was the best player that year despite how many tricked out cars the university illegally gave him). Should ESPN hire me as an analyst? Probably. Will they? They’d be stupid not to.
The year is now 2017, years since I began this essay, and Alexa and I have settled on the West Coast in Eugene, Oregon spending our days beneath rainy skies and amongst some of the most vibrant green scenery imaginable. I have thoroughly reaped the benefits of her time as a graduate student at the University of Oregon, gaining free access to all sporting events including Duck football at Autzen Stadium. The experience of seeing big time college athletics has been thrilling and I couldn’t imagine a better spot for a junkie like me. I spend my Sundays still glued to the NFL. I have mastered my setup for the optimum viewing experience. The big television plays NFL Redzone (for those unaware, this channel flips back and forth between every game all day) through my Xbox, the small television is hooked up to the local antennae with whatever is playing through the airwaves, and my computer is streaming a Bears game through an undisclosed website because we basically only get Seahawks games and Tennessee Titans games on locals out here because of the national broadcasters’ belief that we still want to watch Marcus Mariota play every damn weekend (even against the shit-eating Browns).
I’ve tempered my emotional attachments, realizing now that I can be invested without having psychotic breaks and fixating on losing for days afterward. I feel that football and I have really been working on our relationship and I might have been too clingy. We can still love each other without spending every second together. Ah, isn’t that nice? The author tries to reconcile his demons at the end of the essay by blatantly lying to his audience about being less of a sack of shit now.
I’m still sick. I have a fever and the only thing that will cure it is a Super Bowl. And then another one after that...