My oldest son played his first high school football game of the season last week. I was very excited to see my son on the field doing the one thing he loves most in the world. As a parent, I know I’m biased, but the kid is actually pretty good. He has all the athleticism and drive that I never had at his age.
I was also reminded of how cruel football fans can be. On one particular play, a defender got past my son and assisted on a tackle. Immediately after, I heard a fan a couple rows up yell “Hey 14, you missed that block! You gotta block somebody! … Block somebody, 14!” After years of overzealous parents yelling similar uninvited instructions, I’ve gotten used to these outbursts. I now find the comedy in it: The fact that someone feels so openly that is their place to coach a kid that they don’t know from the stands with absolutely no regard for the kid’s parents possibly being nearby. Not that it matters; I just feel weird yelling at someone else’s kid, especially since I’m not his coach. But that’s just me. Also, why yell the same thing 3 times? Is he waiting for my son to look up in the stands and say “Hey, thanks, mister?”
Hey, it’s football. We get excited. I get it. I even get it when, like last Friday night, the home team’s fans walk over to our (visiting) side of the stands to mock the fans, made up of mostly parents and such, after their blowout victory. I mean, I’d never do it, but it’s football.
Maybe my eagerness to find the humor in these situations stems from all my years as a Georgia and Atlanta sports fan. We have decades of epic letdowns to prime us for the inevitable heartbreaking failure of our team. I’ve grown so numb to the 28-3 memes that it doesn’t even faze me anymore. And by “doesn’t even faze me anymore” I mean “brings me to the verge of tears every time,” of course. I mean, damn, we had that game!
That’s the comedy of it to me, though. We tie up so many emotions into a game in which we have absolutely no control over the outcome. There’s nothing I can do to help my teams win: No amount of screaming at the TV, no matter how much I yell from the stands, no matter how many times a stranger bellows out football instructions from Row 26. But when that clock hits 00:00, we’re either elated with happiness or overcome with devastation and we, as fans, have absolutely no control over it. Kind of sadistic when you put it that way, isn’t it?
Alas, here we are at the dawn of a new season. High school football is underway, and college starts this weekend with professional to follow. As always, I’ll hope for the best. In all honesty, I wouldn’t care if the Falcons and Dawgs both went winless all season if my son had a chance to play for a championship. It’s what all parents of an athlete would want.