I am a man with no nation. No war colors, no banners, no fight songs, no provincial rituals, no heroes of the past, and no brothers lined up beside me ready for action. No one summons me to battle.
I am a man without a college football team. And these early autumn days are the hardest.
I grew up in New England. Boston, kinda. While I was indoctrinated to the Patriots early, there was no matching fervor for a local college team. Then, I went to college at George Washington University, where they don’t even have a team. My parents? They went to a small school in Boston, kinda, too. No team there either.
This void has always existed, probably not unlike the kid who was raised without religion feels when Christmas and Hanukkah roll around. Sports are such a monopolizing part of my life, and here I am, wallflowering as the college football sock-hop kicks off and everyone promenades around giddily.
Is it envy? Is it apathy? Is it indecisiveness? Is it an elixir of all three?
I can’t help it. I just want an alumni association that does things other than bug me for money. I want a concrete reason to head to the bar on Saturday afternoons and stay there Saturday nights. I want to say yes to shotgunning beers after touchdowns. I want to say no to face paint (but I want to be asked).
I want to plot and execute road trips to college towns I wouldn’t otherwise see with college buddies I wouldn’t otherwise (even want to) see. I want a reason to embrace fall, like the rest of the world has seemed to do. I want to meet people and like them instantaneously because we both live and die for The Fighting Golden Thunder Cat Eagles, or whatever.
Just wait a few weeks though, until most teams’ unblemished, playoff-bound, true-freshman idolater dreams are trampled like recently fresh snow. Either by embarrassing defeat or by embarrassing scandal, they all fall somehow. That’s when my FOMO will increasingly dissipate. But damn if I’m not feeling hollow right now, like the aftermath of a Dementor’s Kiss.
Sure, there are ways of acquiring a college team to root for, just ask Drake, right? For example, how I liked Penn State because they were great in Sega Genesis’s College Football National Championship (don’t let me break my RB out wide on a Student Body run). Or when I liked Miami because I had a sweet Starter Jacket (also, my dad got his Ph.D. there, but I assure you it had EVERYTHING to do with the colors of this jacket). I tried liking Boston College because they were local and used to routinely upset Notre Dame.
For a while, I liked Michigan State because I did that thing where you spin a globe, close your eyes, and put a finger down, but with a list of D1 teams. A man of principle, I liked Texas because they always seemed above board. And I even liked Boise State because I had never seen a better game or more fun upset on such a large stage, than when they upset Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in 2007 (seriously watch those highlights!).
But those were fickle interests, all evaporating by the time the next season rolled around. I’ve even tried rooting against teams that I always hated, but conference realignments, academic and criminal scandals, and the nonstop carousel of coaches have kept the overdogs and bad guys shuffling through, unfazed.
Caring, truly caring about sports is an awesome and unifying feeling, even if your team isn’t always a winning bunch. But you can’t half-ass it. There are 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams (and most of them will be going pro in something other than sport) and far fewer that ever, really, have a chance of winning. Unlike the NFL, college football isn’t massively popular for the trophy that possibly awaits every team at the end of the season, or for the massive fantasy sports bubble. It’s the journey of a team and the camaraderie of its fanbase. It’s the college reunions you actually want to attend, every week.
But not for me, it isn’t. Here I am, outside looking in at all of you in your college sweatshirts, with your Saturday plans and your passionate gameday tailgate, wondering if it is too late for me to find my true (team) colors.