ALL FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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September 1, 2014 · Posted in Commentary 

College Football scenes

 

By Bob Vickrey

I can’t remember the precise date of our anniversary, but I must have taken traditional vows like everyone else did: “I take you to be my faithful partner and my love from this day forward and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.”

Looking back at our long relationship, I can truthfully say I’ve honored these vows and still have the same love for college football that I did when I made that commitment many years ago.

If your sports background began with Texas high school football like mine did, the love affair with the game was naturally acquired. The “Friday Night Lights” syndrome was—and is—very much alive and well in my home state. High school football madness has dominated community discussions every fall for many decades in big cities as well as in small towns across the state.

Many of us who were diagnosed with the early warning signs of “pigskin syndrome” eventually found college football equally as addictive. We either attended or aligned ourselves with one or more of the many college teams across the Southwest. By then we were doomed to a life of loyalty to an institution we had only experienced for a short period in our young lives.

The first signs came rather early in life when we boys began spending almost as much time thinking about the upcoming fall football season as we did about girls. This was troubling at first, but we became used to this summer trend. But later in life, this habit would eventually become even more troubling for the women we married. I tried subtle methods of persuasion with my wife (at the time) by repeatedly playing the Beach Boys’ song “Be True to Your School,” but my attempts at coercion failed to pay many dividends on game day. She was a good sport about it all and managed to feign interest through the first quarter, but usually excused herself because of the pressing need to alphabetize her sock drawer.

Our blind loyalty to the college game required us to run errands during the week and reserve Saturdays for the game. It usually meant postponing important business meetings and interrupting family vacations for the 2 p.m. kickoff. It often created tension among younger family members who never quite understood their parents’ reasons for missing their wedding. Turns out, those silly kids scheduled their wedding on the same day as the conference championship game, and family traditional priorities were duly observed. What other choice did the parents have?

One of my friends who graduated from the University of Michigan once poked fun at me when he mused, “It must be hard to be a college football fan and root for Baylor each week.” He made a valid point at that time about my school which had recorded slightly more wins than losses in its 112-year history. It might have been easier growing up as a fan of the Irish, Trojans, Sooners, or Crimson Tide, but the underdog role certainly became a tantalizing prospect. And oh, how those victories have become even sweeter when they happen against perennial powers.

I’m fairly unapologetic about my passion for the game of college football. I figure we all need our diversions from the harsh realities of the front page headlines. I love the simplicity of sports because we are able to choose a team and cheer for it with a no-holds-barred attitude. There are neither moral gray areas nor ambiguity when we consider college football. We simply love the team in the green (or blue, or cardinal) jerseys—and that’s all we need to know to offer our unconditional support and loyalty. Few things in life are less complicated than that.

Our hallowed institution has taken a bit of a hit in recent years. There are vocal critics that have labeled football a gladiator sport which is physically dangerous and should not be peddled to younger generations. If their criticism is justified and I’m eventually forced to find another sport, I will likely need an extended stay in a rehab clinic to wean myself away from the college game.

Oh yes, I still enjoy high school football after all these years and attend several games each season to watch our local team play. I even watch a little professional football, but I’ve simply never quite felt the same connection. The high school and college connection is about personal investment in place and institution and I’ve always found stronger natural ties there.

As the new college football season opens in a few days, I’m already humming Brian Wilson’s Beach Boys’ anthem while realizing this just might be a very good year for the team in the green jerseys. Times have changed on my old college campus and it seems the Baylor Bears have recently decided to relinquish their former underdog role. This new era is almost enough to make me want to repeat my vows.

Bob Vickrey’s columns appear in several Southwestern newspapers including the Houston Chronicle and the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. He is a member of the Board of Contributors for the Waco Tribune-Herald. He lives in Pacific Palisades, California.

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