Originally Written September 25th
Leaves changing colors.
Temperatures dropping but not yet freezing you to your core.
Flannel shirts. Hot Chocolate. Bonfires.
And of course Football.
I have spent the vast majority of my 30+ years in love with the game. In my youth my best friend introduced me to the game, showed me the amazing feats preformed by Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and the rest of the greats from the late 80s teams in San Francisco. I was hooked immediately. Despite living in the middle of Ohio I became a diehard fan of the team in red and gold way out west. And for most of my first ten years as a fan it was awesome.
Of course, living not all that far away from Cincinnati I also found myself unable to resist being pulled into the fandom of the “hometown” team but can you blame me for seeking refuge with another locale’s team? Things were more than a little rough for about twenty years for fans of any sport here in southwestern Ohio, but football was particularly painful.
Over the years I have obsessed about stats. I have played fantasy football with friends and strangers alike. I have spent hours watching highlights and scoping the news for free agent acquisitions, draft prospects, trades and scouting reports. College, professional, arena, European-minor leagues, leagues from Canada, hell even the off season league started up by a professional wrestling conglomerate, if it was football I was watching it. If I was on the road and couldn’t watch I would do my best to listen. If there wasn’t a game on I’d listen intently to sports talk when the subject of my beloved sport came up. Hell I would even be more than content to flip to a classic sports channel and watch games from long ago, even knowing the outcome. And if none of those options were available to me, there were always the video games.
For years I bought every iteration of one line or another of games (back when there was more than one company churning out games). I’d buy the college game just so I could send boys from my beloved OSU to the pros and do my damnedest to get those collegiate stars onto my dynasty teams in the pros. At one point I had played through nearly forty combined seasons on the two levels. I had even picked up the arena league game that came out a few console generations ago.
In short I was obsessed. Sure I knew people that were more obsessed than I but my passion for the game was undeniable. I practically shed tears when my teams failed to win. I all but tore my clothes and gnashed my teeth whenever I witnessed an idiotic play or horrible call. When playing games I would quit if it looked like I might lose to the computer, childishly demanding only greatness from my gridiron gladiators.
But then something changed.
It started one day when I was starting a new season in one of the video games. The particular version of the game was the first one I had purchased in two years, having slowly realized the fallacy of throwing down $60 every year for a barely improved game with new rosters. The previous version of the game had seen me guide my team through 16 full seasons of domination. As I started up this second season on this newer version though I found myself unable to be even the slightest bit interested in the offseason aspects of the game and a short while later I turned it off. That was four years ago and I have yet to turn it or any other version of the franchise on again.
Slowly the malaise I felt with the controller in my hand seeped into my viewing of the game. For years I had been the most passionate supporter of two teams that for quite a while had been awful. Disappointing year after disappointing year I hung in there, often times on the verge of a stroke watching my favorite teams fail. But as this clarity seeped into the forefront of my mind I found myself less and less invested. I quit spending large chunks of time in front of the tv or at the computer pouring over what happened in the pros and college, I all but forgot about the other forms of the sport.
Over time I have detached myself fully from the game. I still enjoy watching and still cheer my heart out when either of my favorite teams are on but I no longer am personally defeated by their failures (just as I gain nothing when they win). Several times in the last few years one of my favorite teams has been close to the championship and the other team has done far better than they did in my youth. But the thing is, even when the team I love loses in the final game of the year, even when the championship that has eluded them for nearly two decades slips through their fingers, nothing in my life changes.
I have my own worries. I have my stressors and failings to deal with. I also have my own victories to celebrate. Whether they win or lose, my life goes on.
Deciding to not let what happens between teams of 100 odd rich strangers getting paid tons to play a game for a living make or break my day was one of the smartest things I have ever done with my life.
Because now when I sit down with my girlfriend to watch a game, when I sit alone and review scores or when I meet with friends to grill out and watch a game I get to enjoy the overall experience from a position of clarity.
And frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Of course I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t do a back-flip out of my chair if at the end of the year that damn platinum trophy with the football on it didn’t find its way “home”.