Recent conversations with a few childhood friends led me to reflect on the reasons why I am not a football fan. As with many things in our lives, experience, familiarity, and habits are often formed early and they remain with us as we age. I grew up in a family in which baseball was king. My dad played professional baseball. He was the Lee County Parks and Recreation Director for many years and was influential in bringing the Kansas City Royals to Fort Myers for spring training when they became a team. Before that, Daddy was proud to host the Pittsburgh Pirates during spring training. Both of my brothers played baseball and, although my eldest brother, Park, played football at FSU, we remained a baseball loving family. Sadly, for my family and me, my beloved father passed away soon after I began 9th grade, when I was 14. My mom was a traditional, stay at home mom who had never worked outside the home. Therefore, the day after my 15th birthday, I obtained a work permit so that I could get a job to help support my mom and myself. (Thankfully, Park helped us a great deal; we couldn’t have made it without you, Big Bro!) Because I was a high school student, the only times I could work were weekdays, after school, and weekends. My supervisors, in a variety of retail settings that employed me, were adults who were thrilled to assign me to work every Friday night, as well as every Saturday night, every Sunday, etc. so that they could enjoy these prime times with their family. This, of course, meant that I missed not only every football game my high school team played, but every baseball game, basketball game, wrestling match, and whatever other sports activities my school offered. When my friends were watching football games, playing football, cheerleading, playing in the band, holding pep rallies, and engaging in other endeavors designed to promote school spirit, I was working. And working. And working. Because I was working, I never developed a love for football or sports in general, for that matter. I did, however, develop a strong work ethic that has been a tremendous asset throughout my career. By the time I got to college, then graduate school, football was not a part of my existence. But, thanks to my dear friend, Teresa, I have attended 2 NFL games, both involving the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, anytime I am in a football stadium or another sports arena, you can be almost certain I am there for a rock and roll concert, not a game!
I think there are reasons to be a football fan, a baseball fan, a NASCAR fan, or a rock and roll fan that go beyond having to work. I’m sure there are people studying theories of “fanness,” including those of medieval sporting events, of cheering the knight carrying the colored banner of “your” side. Or, the gladiator from your town. Whether team or individual sports, following them as a fan takes on a life of its own. And, everyone has hobbies, activities, or interests that can include football, baseball, soccer, or non sporting events. Time and money are scarce for most of us, so priorities kick in and we make our choices. For Melissa, and me, that does not include football. I think she found the games she’s attended to be interesting experiences more for the study of the attendees than the players. The same is true for me, but my priorities are different. For a time, I enjoyed watching the Miami Dolphins – in their Superbowl winning years. But, the conflict in this activity with other activities in which I became involved, such as fishing, hunting, and later, photography, took precedence. High school football was one thing, especially when I was in the band, but after that there was no looking back and my energies, time, and money went elsewhere. Fortunately for me, Melissa and I are in agreement on this point and we “take” our entertainment in the form of music more often than sports. The occasional baseball game is the exception and many of these experiences are undertaken, in part, to check out aspects of the game, other than what is happening on the field. Checking out stadiums around the country has become a part of our fun when traveling. It was cool recently, standing in the center of the Dolphins stadium field, to look at the stands as the players see the fans. But, we were there to see Jimmy Buffett and The Eagles, and for no other reason! To each his or her own!