My Thursday was highlighted by the 7th grade's first football game of the season. The faces were eager, ranging from complete fear of the unknown, to anticipation of full contact with an opponent. Most start tentative, until the team gives out that first stick of another which seems to raise the desire for getting a chance to contribute. Hopefully, by the time those first year players are ready to play, the score has not been already decided. In the case of my Rockford team, we surrendered a first play sixty yard touchdown run. From there we shutdown our bigger and more established foe. Unfortunately at this level, defense seems to find its' way before offense, and we never got untracked, losing 16-0 in a hard fought battle.
Fridays are high school football night. Fans are families which typically have a son on the team, or student bodies which show up in numbers to support their friends and peers. Bigger schools like Totino Grace, Wayzata, Minnetonka and the like have stands full for games that can create quite an atmosphere. Growing up I recall high school football games as the beginning of Friday night fun. It is these games that there is the most at stake for players, in my opinion. Players are involved simply for the enjoyment of football and school spirit. When you win the weekend is enjoyed, losses and the weekends are spent sulking.
Saturdays are college football days. Those alumni and football fanatics will go to large stadiums to see powerful programs, or in the case of smaller colleges, create a campus party that lasts before and after games. I enjoyed my time at Hamline University games (years ago) more than I have as an alumni of the University of Minnesota. I recall sneaking in mini-kegs, chanting with nearby sorority sisters, or simply screaming for two and a half hours. It was a blast. Unfortunately, I now find myself unable to even watch my alma mater, as they cannot seem to find a coach or recruits that makes then superior to schools like South Dakota. Major programs hoard television time, like Notre Dame, to the point that I seem to enjoy watching those games solely on the hope that a big school falls. For whatever reason, I grew up in the 1970s cheering for Alabama and coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. I liked the simple uniforms, I guess.
Sundays are for NFL football. By this time I have invested a large amount of my time to football over the weekend. While I tend not to watch too much college these days, I am dedicated to my team of forty years: the Minnesota Vikings. On top of the must watch status of the home team, I also enjoy watching the Green Bay Packers play, on the hope that someone will beat them. Of all the football I take part in, there is no greater rivalry for me than the North Division of professional football. I was addicted to this rivalry from 1970 to today. It has grown in its' intensity. Losing to the Packers I would equate with passing a kidney stone.
Football is a busy time. Even at high school where I should be focused on education, I find connections with students and staff involving all four levels of football. In addition, at Rockford there is a new tradition where staff wear their alma mater sweatshirts on the last Friday of the month. The English teacher I talked to everyday suddenly becomes a hated rival as she dons her Wisconsin colors. And don't get me started on those from Iowa. Or Michigan.
Yes there is a lot of football in my life. But I am not alone. From Thursdays to Sundays (and other days for JV and C squads) I live and breathe the game. Knowing what I do about the active brain and the success of the student athlete, I would not want it any other way. Even if my own child suddenly liked Green Bay.