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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. We have new deadlines for most of our stories at The Leader, thanks to changing our publication schedule a little, and my deadline for this column was supposed to be Monday.
I did not meet my deadline.
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 third national championship in the past four 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 claims 15. Others say we have 10, 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 a couple of 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, I’ve had no inclination to write this column.
So our editor, Charlotte Aguilar, suggested I just be honest with you: Tell the readers that your mind is singly preoccupied with this football game. So that’s what I’m doing.
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 worried with the past week was whether or not Barrett Jones would be able to handle Louis Nix III so Chance Warmack could focus on blocking Manti Te’o, thus allowing Eddie Lacy to find a few running lanes. (Don’t worry, there’s not a quiz later.)
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 Reliant 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. It’s a reason for my Dad to call me at 11 p.m. on a random Monday night when there was no other reason to talk.
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, especially when it gives me and Dad a reason to chat. That can’t happen enough.