As I get older I find it increasingly difficult to explain my love of football. You’d think that the opposite would be true, that I would find it easier to tell people how wonderful it is as I understand the game more. But that is simply not the case.
I follow Stewart Mandel on Twitter because he frequently writes about college football for Sports Illustrated. Today he posted a link to an article on ESPN, an excerpt from a new book by Chuck Klosterman titled Eating the Dinosaur. Klosterman’s article includes all sorts of fascinating (to me) notes about formations and play-calling, about the philosophy and the history of the game.
And I am definitely going to buy his book, primarily because it contains the following beautiful paragraph:
“My wife is awesome, but she hates football (as wives are wont to do). Every game seems the same to her. I will be watching a contest between Kent State and Eastern Michigan on a random Thursday night, and she will say, ‘Go ahead and watch that game. I will just sit here and read this magazine featuring a plus-sized black female TV personality from Chicago.’ Two days later, Georgia will be playing LSU for the SEC championship. Now she will want to rent Scenes from a Marriage. ‘You want to watch football again?’ she will ask. ‘Didn’t you already watch football on Thursday?’ Every game seems the same to her. And I can’t explain the difference, even though the differences feel so obvious. And I don’t want to explain the difference, because I always want to watch Kent State and Eastern Michigan, too. They are as different to me as they are similar to her.”
That does a pretty fair job of explaining it, I think. (You should read the full article.) I cannot tell you the number of times in my life that I have sat in my driveway listening to the last five minutes of a close game between two teams that do not matter to me at all.
I think that it has something to do with drama and story and plot: I follow the sport closely enough to know which coach fired this guy and now has to face him, or which player recently lost a game for his team and now has to redeem himself, or which conference needs this win to legitimize its position in the BCS. I certainly can tell you why the fact that this team lost by 34 points to that team last year means that this coach can’t possibly punt in this situation this year and what it will do for his team’s chances if he does.
There is — as far as I am concerned — more Shakespearean drama involved in a single 3rd and 3 play in a meaningless late-season non-conference game between two teams with no hope of going to a bowl than there is in most entire episodes of Beverly Hills 90210.
As my coworker Andy said, though, it is even harder to explain why the instant a game finishes my first instinct is to immediately watch the highlights. Even I don’t get that.