By Sterling Pingree
Football season has begun and with it comes the trappings of the season. There are those who think that football season isn’t a very big deal and believe that it’s much to do about nothing. To those people I make this argument: is there anything that brings more people together than football?
If you think about, whether you follow the Patriots or the Steelers, college, pro or high school, the sport itself is something that people can rally around in different regions regardless of what team you follow or at what level. In Texas, nothing is bigger than the “Friday Night Lights”, which I am required by law to put in parenthesis because the illumination of a specific time of the week has been used in books, television and movies to describe the sport in only one state.
The mania around high school football isn’t as embraced in the northeast as it is in Texas or Florida but it’s still embraced here. The same can be said for college football; people like the Black Bears, but nobody is calling into The Drive in April to talk about national signing day. In the state of Alabama alone, college football is a 365-day a year obsession as is the rivalry between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers. On occasion during the football season, I will stream the Paul Finebaum show, just to hear the vitriolic rhetoric being spewed on his airwaves between the Tigers and the Tide. There is no such thing as a slow day in the south, Roll Tide.
The northeast is firmly entrenched in professional football, because we are living in the golden era of the local team, the New England Patriots. I have realized that since I graduated from college, that football has been the sport that most easily adapts to your life as you get older. I grew up a baseball diehard and still consider myself to be to one to a great extent, but football seems to fit a busy lifestyle more seamlessly. There is a game on Sunday (sometimes Monday), it’s not obtrusive into your hectic life but at the same time it gives you something to look forward to during the week. Whatever is going on at work can be paused for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon to watch the game. Not only does a football game fit neatly into a box in your schedule, it’s also a cause, or an excuse to celebrate.
In America, we celebrate football. I feel confident saying “we” in this case, because almost everybody attends a Super Bowl party each year. I’m talking though about the mid-October invitations that spring out of nowhere to get together with friends simply because “the game’s at 4:25pm.” I have friends that are married, have a kid, some kids and maybe even grand kids (even with Facebook, I’ll be damned if I can keep track of how many babies people have around these days) and you need excuses to get together and football somehow made the life of acceptable reasons to brush off other commitments or obligations. It’s like that class in college that somehow counts as a fine arts credit but you don’t know History of Rock N Roll can get you out of taking pottery, it doesn’t make sense but you’re not going to complain about it for a second. (I got an A+ in History of Rock N Roll by the way.)
Case in point: my friend Sam is an adult. He has a wife, two kids, a job, a house and hell I wouldn’t be shocked if he had life insurance too. I’ve known Sam since college when we routinely made trips to Fenway Park during the week in cars that were hardly road worthy and got back about 3 or 4am. (Quick aside: during college Sam and I drove to Fenway and back on a Tuesday night in his beat up old Saturn because it got roughly 327 miles per gallon. What the car didn’t have was a speedometer, odometer, gas gauge or windows that did anything but rattle. His girlfriend was so concerned that we wouldn’t make it from Bangor to Boston and back that she stayed up all night waiting for the roadside distress calls so she could use her AAA membership to help us out. Did I mention that she went to school in Iowa?)
Those were our wilder days, but Sam and I are now at this stage of our lives where see each other a few times per year, but it’s like clockwork. We will get together to watch a game per year on tv, we’ll explore taking a road trip to see a Patriots road game in a warm weather location when it’s cold in Maine, we’ll play in a flag football game the Saturday after Thanksgiving called the Turkey Bowl, we’ll go to a Patriots home game with our mutual friend Trevor and I will go to his house to watch the Super Bowl. That’s five times that Sam and I will get together during football season and there is always a chance that with the pace that life moves at, that those could be the only times all year. I’m not sure how it happens, but the Super Bowl viewing (we don’t party, we eat plenty, but watching the Super Bowl is about watching the Super Bowl) is the bench mark of each year where we always evaluate our social efforts over the past year. We’ll make plans for March or April, maybe some more golf in the summer, but year after year what has kept our friendship going has been football season and the rituals and traditions that come with it.
The beauty of football is that it unifies. It’s the greatest unifying force of people once a year since Thanksgiving and even they had a merger years ago. Whether it’s a high school homecoming game, cheering on you alma mater or watching the Patriots on Sunday, its something that family and friends all seem to be doing anyway so you might at the very least do it together. Gas up the grills, break out the crock pots and abide by whatever traditions set forth by your fantasy league, pick ‘em pool, office pool or suicide pool, because football is back, tell a friend.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.