Honesty, it seems, is an important quality for someone who writes a column. We deliver about 34,000 newspapers every week, and while most people probably don’t care about my drivel, there are enough of you who will call me on a lie.
So I’ve got to be honest about today’s column: I am in absolutely no condition to write it. This column is supposed to be written on Tuesdays, and on Tuesday of this week, I had neither the will or desire for creativity.
You see, I was not born in Houston. I am from Tuscaloosa, Ala., a nice little town of about 100,000 people, where the Black Warrior River splits the pine trees and rubs the northern edge of the city’s largest employer: The University of Alabama.
In a sense, I grew up on that campus. From the day I can first remember, I was always around the Capstone, as we call it. And in the fall, I was religiously there every Saturday that my beloved Crimson Tide played a football game.
Many of you still may not realize why that’s significant, but on Monday night, my football team won its fifth national championship in the past nine years. Trying to put a tally on how many titles we’ve actually won is a matter of controversy (ask my Auburn friends, of which I have few). The school now claims 17. Others say we have 12, but now we’re just being boastful.
The history of Alabama football is as ridiculous as any story you’ve ever heard. My parents, as God-fearing a couple as you’ll ever meet, were introduced to my then-girlfriend (now wife) only when I could match the trip with an Alabama-Florida game seven years ago. As we were preparing to leave for the game that Saturday morning, my Dad literally told my wife that she was about to attend a worship service of 100,000 people.
Here’s my point: After faith and family, I’m not sure anything has as much consequence in an Alabama native’s life than college football games. And because we played (and won) the national championship on Monday, it’s been hard to find the energy to research anything other than a last-second pass from a true freshman to another true freshman.
It’s really quite brainless, if you think about it. I’m supposed to be a grown man who owns a business, and the only thing I thought about in the 24 hours after that win was how Alabama figured out another way to win.
To those who don’t care about football, this literally sounds like the dumbest, most meaningless waste of time for a human being. Playing sports is one thing – that’s where real discipline is learned, in my opinion. But a man who spends too much time worrying about the performance of some 18-22 year olds sounds foolish.
In a sense, it is. Then again, I’m not so sure.
Houston is a sports-crazy city. Drive through one of our neighborhoods, and you’ll find University of Texas, Texas A&M or Houston Texans flags draping off the front of homes and trees. On football Saturdays in College Station or Austin, or Sundays outside of NRG Stadium, regular people like me put on expensive jerseys (even though they’ve never put a foot inside the chalk of a football field) just because they care about their teams.
Why do people do this? Why has it virtually eliminated one week of my productivity, when my concern over a game means absolutely nothing to the people playing?
Here’s why: Athletic loyalty is more than just love of a jersey. For me, it’s an opportunity to have friends over every Saturday. It’s a chance to stay in touch with people I would likely never call if I couldn’t talk to them about “the team.” It’s a reason to save my money, hop on a plane and go visit family and friends.
True story: One of my best friends growing up is a guy named Eric Chandler. Eric and I played youth sports together, went to basketball camps all over the South together, and for one year, went to high school together.
I don’t know how many guys I played sports with, but I probably had 15 really close friends during those teen years of my life. But Eric and I also went to Alabama games – football and basketball – together, and amazingly we’ve never lost touch.
For the past 12 years, I think, Eric and I have called each other before every single Alabama game. We may have missed one or two in the past decade, but it’s not often. And because of that, Eric and I have stayed closer than any of my childhood friends. There’s only one reason for that.
Ultimately, being a sports fan isn’t just about rooting for a team. It’s about rooting for a team with people you know and love. It’s about cooking ribs, drinking a beer and talking to your friends about everything except the big game.
I know it sounds crazy, but is it really? I’m not so sure. I have friends from a lifetime ago, and we’ve remained involved in each other’s lives simply because we support the same team. My Dad and I talk before every important game. My brothers and I send each notes before, during and after the games.
Maybe it’s immature. Maybe it’s not. Roll Tide.