Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sorry, I can't, it's Football Season.

I get that I sound crazy.

Really. When people suggest we go to the Oyster Festival and I say, “Sure, the Redskins play at 8:30 that night and the Panthers are off.”

Or when people ask about a birthday party and I say, “No, that’s NC State weekend. We’ll be at Clemson.”

I know when I say, “Yeah, we got lucky,” when talking about the win, grouping myself with the team that took the field, as if I were one of them, I sound crazy.

Seeing myself as part of something bigger, Redskins Nation, Clemson World, the Panthers faithful, could be noble. 

Or it could just be fucking crazy.

Who plans their schedule around football? (Friends don’t let friends get married during football season.)

Who tells stories with the time marker whichever game had most recently been played, eschewing days, dates, and years for the milestones of football? (We ran that ½ marathon the first time Pittsburgh played at Death Valley. Grandma’s funeral was in 2015 because Clemson played at Syracuse that year.)

I get that it’s crazy. And if I didn’t get it, the people around me during non-football events would let me know.

Last weekend we went to Hollie’s first USS swim meet. USS is the round-year swimming league governed by the United States Swimming Association. It’s the big leagues for rec swimming in contrast with summer league and YMCA lessons. The meet fell on a Clemson bye week. Score.

Navy played at 3:30 and Hollie’s race was over by 2:30 so we left the meet and went to the bar. Of course we did. It’s football season and that’s what we do.

When outlining the plan for the other swim team moms, I said, “Oh, we’re only here for her race and then we’re leaving to watch the Navy game.” I must have said it 100 times. I felt like I was on repeat. No one had any doubt that’s where we were going as soon as Hollie got out of the water.

So, yeah, I sound crazy.

Except, maybe, to other football people. To other people who know football the way I do. The way it connects me to my dad in Philadelphia while we text frantically about Navy’s punts, passes, and throws. How it connects me to Tami, Court, and Jilly on our group text throughout the Clemson game. How it connects me to Kristen in Virginia while we lament how bad the NFC East really is.

Football doesn’t just make me part of something bigger. It makes me part of a family. A broken, dramatic, sometimes hopeful and sometimes irate family, but a family nonetheless.

There’s the onsite Clemson tailgate family, strangers in a parking lot except for those seven times a year. The Death Valley family cheering to 111 decibels of “do something right for fuck’s sake!” (Commonly heard as “Let’s go, Tigers!”) And the actual blood-relatives family who come to use my Papa’s season tickets every game.

There’s the bigger ACC family and the pride we feel in those conference-promoting commercials. The college fandom family that tunes in for every second of Game Day and cheers or boos Corso’s pick.

There’s the even bigger NFL fandom and the 24-hour, 7-day-a-week NFL Network sport-and-athlete worship machine. The jerseys and the terrible towels and the face painters and the fantasy league players.

So, yeah, it’s something bigger. It’s a tribe.

And it makes me sound crazy, I know, but I want to be part of it. I want to prioritize it. I want it to matter to me and my kid. And it does. She doesn’t always like it, but she gets it.

So for those who don’t, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I can’t come to your Sunday afternoon whatever-suchness you’re planning. I’m sorry I won’t be attending the State Fair or church or a girls’ weekend or a movie night. Try me in February. Right now it’s football season.