“So how long have you been a fan?”
Stuck somewhere between those just there for the beer and the stat-dropping aficionados,
I am a moderate in a world full of football fan extremists.
As a born and raised Pacific Northwest girl, the Seahawks have always been my football team. I didn’t watch them religiously growing up, but the games would be on and I would absorb a bit. Getting older, the social aspect of watching the game drew me in, the shared emotions and sense of connection with something bigger than oneself. Once absorbed into the group-think haze of mutual enthusiasm and heartbreak, I learned that watching My Sillyhawks could be just as satisfying as cheering on my first love; baseball. And as a born philomath, it was impossible not to want to better understand the game itself. But I was content in my middle of the road, gray area understanding of the sport as well as “my team”.
Right before this season began, I discovered a Booster Club for them in my current city. There was something soothing about being surrounded by a crowd cheering, quite enthusiastically, for my home team. A natural comradery seemed to permeate the air… and I wanted to drink the kool-aid. So I grabbed myself a seat in the midst of the blue/lime-green sea, and was quickly struck by a sense of not quite belonging. Everyone around me was a FAN, just one step short of face painting. I started to be worried…. Could they accept a non-über fan just genuinely cheering for her home team, without thinking I was just pretending to enjoy football? Or would they see someone who thought it was acceptable to wear a pink jersey? (ohhh, pink cause I am a girl!!!!) For the record, I don’t think this is okay for ANY sport… wear team colors. End of story.
“So how long have you been a Fan?”
Posed to me by a fellow blue/lime-green bedecked lady, I wasn’t entirely sure how to answer. Suddenly immersed in a world of trivia-spurting, name-dropping, stat-reciting, history-quoting FANS, I felt apart. And worse, I felt like an imposter. Ummm, always? was my tentative reply. I waited with bated breathe to be uncovered. “Remove the imposter!” I heard the pitchfork wielding, torch-waving crowd cry in my mind. Surely now, the gig was up and they would turn on me, like blood cells to an unmasked bacteria.
“Oh, that is fantastic!” My still-smiling neighbor responded to me. “I have been a fan for about 10 years, but my boyfriend knows EVERYTHING about football.” And said-boyfriend commenced explaining some the intricacies of the latest penalty to me. Soon it became a table-wide sharing of knowledge conversation. After my first tentative I-am-going-to-look-so-dumb question was answered without a second look, I began to breath easier. There was no impending banishment. Everyone there was excited to be there, and even happy for a chance to bestow some knowledge on an eager audience.
Then I remembered one of the most simple rules of conversation… People LOVE to share their knowledge, especially if it is something they adore. I had placed myself in a room full of extremely passionate, focused people.
All I had to do to in order to learn, in order to connect, was to ask.
They may not become close friends, but through the medium of football, I feel like I have found a little niche of home away from home. I still don’t know the press conference quote of the week. I still have no idea what so-and-so is expected to do today based on Wednesday’s practice. And I still can’t comment on a comparison between our current coach and one from the 1980s. I am not going to become a super-fan. But I can show up today, and every Sunday. I can banter about last week’s game and groan with every mistake. And I can cheer.
So that’s me….Football-Fan-Lite: now with less intensity, but all the heart you want.