The spirit of the game

I have a secret. I go to a with a Pac-12 (that means really good) football team and I had never gone to a football game, or any other sports game, until this year.

Seeing that my school spends millions of dollars to provide free seating for students at all sports games, this is pretty irregular. Ask your average freshman and they have gone to at least one game, if not football, some other sport that is easier to get tickets to than the raffle process used for football. But I am part of the minority.

It’s not like I don’t like sports. I played rugby throughout high school and even considered playing at the collegiate level. What I don’t like is how sports at my university are treated like something more than well… sports. I’ve written about the ritualistic nature of a football game before and how the treatment of athletes as celebrities can lead them to commit crimes, and get away with it.

I spent my freshman year silently judging my dorm mates as they treated a home game like an all day ritual. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel superior to them. Unlike my fellow co-eds, I wasn’t drawn into the barbaric, commercialist world of collegiate football, and I was proud.

That’s why it was shocking when, earlier this year, my best friend asked if I wanted to go to a football game and I said yes. There of course were extenuating circumstances: the tickets were incredibly cheap, compared to field level seats that can sell for hundreds of dollars, and we didn’t have much less to do.

It was a stormy day and I crossed the bridge to my university’s stadium with a horde of students in green and yellow, the school colors. Maybe I should have taken the thundering grey skies as a warning, but I dredged on, not knowing exactly what I had gotten myself into.

Of course the minute we got into the stadium it started pouring. My best friend and I considered leaving, but we had paid good money for the tickets, albeit $15. We found our seats and huddled under a shared umbrella right at kickoff.

I immediately felt like a fish out of water. I was surrounded by students, families, and alumni, all enduring wet seats and cranky children in the name of good old American football. Like most other sporting events I have gone to, I was immediately distracted by all the people around me and barely paid attention to the action on the field. I missed at least two touchdowns (the game was a slaughter for my school), but the fans were a lot more interesting than the ant sized players.

While the game itself wasn’t all that captivating, the crowd fascinated me. There was something nostalgic about going to a football game. In a connected age of smart phones and tablets, there was something refreshing about sitting in hard, metal seats, eating overpriced hot dogs, and watching athletes push themselves to the best of their ability. Sure, the jumbotrons were distracting, but I almost felt transported to a different era, albeit a little coliseum-esc. I was not interested in the tackling or kiss cam, but the comradery was infectious.

It was not unlike the time I skipped middle school to go to a Cub’s game. Growing up in Chicago, baseball has always been one of my favorite sports and as a 14-year-old, I was riveted to the game, no technology needed.

So will I go to another football game? Probably not, though I have a new appreciation for the sport. I may not be the one getting up early to put on face paint or rushing onto the field after a win, but I won’t judge my sports loving friends so much for what they do for “the love of the game.”