Today I am proud to announce…football season is back! It’s been a long, hot summer and even though it’s still hot, fall has unofficially arrived by way of kick-offs and first downs. I couldn’t be happier! During every bowl season and every Super Bowl game I am equally excited and sad…excited for hopefully really good games and sad because I know it’s at least eight months before another game. Why do I love football so much? Sometimes I wonder myself, but I do know one thing: I will never be a football widow!
I grew up watching football with my dad. Maybe it was because I was the youngest of three girls. He didn’t have a son to watch games with, so I tagged along. My hometown of Santa Fe had equally divided loyalties between the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos. I remember loving Charlie Waters, Roger Staubach, and Ed “Too Tall” Jones of the Cowboys. I had Waters’ poster in my room and I vividly recall when my grandma subscribed to “Sports Illustrated” for me. I still get it to this day and read every issue cover to cover. Somewhere between Tom Landry and Jerry Jones, my devotion moved north to Mile High Stadium. The “Orange Crush,” John Elway, and the fans’ famous “in-com-plete” chants had me hooked. I cried when they lost the big games and was elated when Elway and company finally won their share of Lombardi trophies.
Football, to me, is more than just a game. I understand the plays, love its traditions, and can’t get enough of its many storied rivalries. Even for those who don’t get the game itself, what’s not to love when bands play a fight song; crazy mascots entertain the crowd; and friends get together for some good, old-fashioned tailgating? I’ve set up tables and tents in the freezing rain and snow in Buffalo and in 100 degree heat in Okahoma and Texas. It’s always festive and it’s always fun. Living in Texas means big time high school football too. As with pro and college games, we’ve tailgated and filled stadiums big enough for many small colleges and universities to watch young boys play their hearts out. High school football is a religion in Texas and I love those Friday night lights.
I also love having friends over to watch football on TV. I can literally watch every televised game all day Saturday and all day Sunday. One of my biggest fears last season was having to wake up early Saturday mornings and watch ESPN’s “College Gameday” without Kristen, as it was our weekend ritual when she was in high school. I also love Monday Night Football and have since the days of Howard Cosell, “Dandy” Don Meredith, and Frank Gifford. When I close my eyes I can still picture little Kristen dancing to the “Are You Ready For Some Football?”opening song. I wouldn’t be surprised if at her wedding, Kristen’s favorite photo is similar to this one:
Today you’re more likely to catch me rooting for the Buffalo Bills than the Cowboys or the Broncos. My husband grew up in Buffalo, and despite going 0-for-4 in consecutive Super Bowls, he still loves his Bills and our only cable TV option is DirectTV because it has the NFL Ticket. He’s happy to swap “Let’s Go Buffalo” stories, but please don’t even think about mentioning “wide right!”
If truth be told though, my football fanaticism is firmly entrenched in college football. I love the electricity, I love the pageantry, and I love my Oklahoma Sooners! I take it seriously, I take it personally, and I’m not the calmest of fans. I’ve broken lamps and tables during Sooner losses and I’ll argue OU’s storied status till the Sooner Schooner comes home…with anyone. In many ways, I make my own life difficult considering I’m a Sooner living in Austin, Texas. It’s not easy, but most of the time it’s fun. Until we lose. Even then, I take my coffee like I take my crimson: with cream.
I still remember walking to home games in Norman, driving to Dallas for the OU-Texas shoot-0ut, and attending many Sooner bowl games, including the Boise State Fiesta Bowl loss and the National Championship game against Florida. Smitty surprised Kristen and me with the trip, and even though OU lost to the Gators, it will always be one of my most treasured memories. It was a Bucket List item and I’m so grateful I got to check that one off.
Now, many years later, Kristen is going to Sooner home games and the annual Red River Rivalry. I am thrilled that she is following in my footsteps and that she loves football, but what makes me especially proud is that she’s making tracks all her own. She’s interning for the OU Athletic Department, is a “stat runner” between OU and ESPN during Sooner home games, and she gets to attend Bob Stoops’ press conferences every week. I’m very proud and a little jealous!
It all goes back to the fact that I love sports in general. I’m not an athlete per se, but I am a decent tennis player and golfer and was a pretty good snow skier back in the day. I sat on the OU Athletics Council next to Barry Switzer, covered sports as a journalist, promoted them as a publicist, and now follow them passionately as a fan. I am not just a fan, I’m a fanatic!
What I don’t like is that, in many ways, sports, and football in general, have become just another big business full of people short on loyalty and big on doing whatever it takes to win. I remember the days when players and coaches stayed with a team for entire careers. Today it’s hard to keep up with who plays where or who coaches what team. Maybe that’s why Tim Tebow struck such a positive chord with fans last year. Here was a man…a true gentleman…who, despite being a real-life champion, was just as committed to high morals as he was to high scoring wins. He also wasn’t afraid to talk about God, family, and clean living and I for one found him inspiring and refreshing.
So this weekend this couch potato is so looking forward to sitting back, watching pre-game shows with my coffee and then anxiously waiting for kick-offs with maybe some queso and Buffalo wings. It’s where you’ll find me every Saturday until January. Are you ready for some football?!