Instead, I watched the University of Michigan play football against Indiana University — a team whose colors exactly matched my sweater. My dad tried to get me to keep my coat on.
I may not like football, but I don’t like being in the minority, either. Thousands of passionate fans can’t be wrong, right?
(Actually, they can. See: “Dancing with the Stars.”) So, I’m going to try to become a football fan. Someone who won’t get dinner with friends because the game is on and for some reason DVRing sports isn’t kosher.
The home team
Who better to get me pumped up than a real fan? Farooq Karim has been a University of Oklahoma fan practically since birth. His parents — neither from Oklahoma — met at the college. Karim was born in Norman and went to OU like his parents, following his dad into architecture. But it’s football that I want to talk about.
That’s also a family affair. When he was still a toddler, his mom got OU season tickets.
“We’ve just continued going ever since. I’ve been to pretty much every home game since I was 4 years old,” he said. And it’s remained a tradition.
“My mom and I have had the exact same seats in the south end zone. It was wooden bleachers when we first started going,” Karim said. “There’s a lot of different aspects to being a college football fan. But for me, it was about going to the games with my mom.”
He now has three season tickets and takes his younger son. Karim said the kiddo is still a bit too young to understand the game — “He’s more concerned with going and eating” — but they’re making memories together all the same.
“It transcends age. It’s just something that we’ve always done,” Karim said. “From those small beginnings, it’s turned into … I wouldn’t necessarily call it an obsession, but …” Karim fessed up about his extensive OU wardrobe: He buys all the new Nike OU gear, and his OU-themed clothing includes several ties. But besides building a wardrobe that sounds fairly monochromatic, dressing in OU digs has its upside.
“I travel a lot for work,” he said. “It is amazing to me how many people I run into that are OU fans — Chicago, New York. It’s kind of cool that you make that connection with people.”
Football trumps almost everything for Karim. He even planned his wedding around a football game (OU played Texas Tech and lost). And if there are nuptials to attend on game day? He knows where he’ll be: in his seat at the stadium.
“There’s not even a question,” Karim said. “If there’s a home game, I don’t miss (it).”
I understand dedication, but that I don’t get. But Karim, of course, is in the majority on this one. In a September article on CNN.com, football superfans lamented the horror of the fall wedding. In fact, there is an entire website dedicated to the unspeakable occurrence of such events, aptly titled fallweddingssuck.com.
And just when I was getting warm, fuzzy feelings for football after talking to Karim, it shrivels and dies with that website.
So who’s on the sourpuss side of the fence with me? Tegan Burkhard and Cameron Peery. I’m guessing (hoping?) there are a lot more, but those two were the only ones brave enough to talk to me.
Burkhard is an OU sophomore, and she’s just not a sports fan. Instead of tailgating and football, Burkhard focuses on other things, like grocery shopping or laundry.
“Game days when I lived in the dorms were really crazy,” she said. “You could hear everything from the stadium, so it’s not the best day to study, but it’s actually a really great day to do laundry.”
She can understand the appeal of attending games; it’s just not for her.“For some people, it’s a chance to let off the stress of school,” she said. “I get it for them, but for me, if it’s not something I love that much, I don’t really want to spend (money on) the tickets … when I could be doing something else.”
It’s not like she’s never tried watching a game; she’ll watch a quarter or two on television before getting bored, and she has attended games for free.
“I got a (free) ticket as a National Merit student, and all the other National Merit kids I was with, actually all of us left at halftime,” she said.
There’s so much I love about that statement from Burkhard.
Non-fan Peery was born and raised in Oklahoma. And he’s a guy. And he still doesn’t like football.
“I tried to play football in junior high, and I just didn’t really care for it,” said Peery, who is a chef, artist and bassist in a band. He said most people try to talk him into liking football, but eventually everyone gives up.
“They automatically think, ‘Are you going to watch the game tonight?’ And that invariably turns into, ‘Why don’t you like football?’ There’s too much made about it, and I don’t think people should be chastised for not liking it,” he said.
Instead, Peery spends his Saturday nights with like-minded friends hanging out at neighborhood spots like Picasso: “I’d rather just chill out with a bottle of wine and shoot the breeze.”
Me, too, Peery. Me, too.
My football experience did not get an auspicious start. A friend invited me to a watch party, but then informed me there would be no talking. Um, thanks? Instead, I watched the OU-Florida State game at home and promptly fell asleep.
The next Saturday, I schlepped down to Norman. My friend agreed to tailgate with me, but only if I wore an OU shirt.
First thing I noticed: outfits.
Apparently, I didn’t get the memo that I was supposed to wear 3 pounds of makeup, tease my hair to bouffant propor tions and wear a red dress. Sequins and sparkles not optional. So I started out already looking like an outsider.
And then there’s the whole “we” thing. Comedian Andy Richter brought up this exact point on Twitter last month: “Also, did you know that when sports fans talk about their teams and use the word ‘we’ they’re not speak ing French? Isn’t that weird?” Yes, that is weird. I asked a friend, who explained there’s such a feeling of camaraderie when you’re surrounded by fellow fans, you start to feel like one of the team. My friend, however, insisted she never used the “we.” Minutes later, she did.
But walking around Campus Corner, I kind of got it. It’s a festival environment, with crowds of revelers, booths and a giant inflatable football on a pendulum that can be used to knock people down. Fun! And over the babble, I heard it: the band. I nearly skipped across the street to hear them play. (I then slowed down considerably to gawk at the professional tailgaters with televisions hooked up. This is a bit … much.)
Before I knew it, I had a huge grin on my face as I listened to the band. I told my friend repeatedly that I wanted to see them march toward the stadium. I was turning into an OU band groupie. This, then, was what Karim was talking about.
Beer in hand, we settled in at O’Connell’s to watch the game.
By minute one, I remembered why I hate football so much:
Staring at a TV, watching a bunch of guys hit-stop-hit-stop. My God, I’d rather watch the Republican presidential debates. At least that would get my blood boiling.
And can we put a limit on how many times someone can scream “Boomer Sooner”? Because once every 15 seconds is possibly too much. (And what’s with adding the “Texas sucks!” line? I’m pretty sure OU was playing Missouri.) I quickly turned grumbly, and I didn’t even make it to halftime before heading home.
In the end, what I learned during this football experiment is that it’s about more than college kids in tight pants throwing stuff around (I’m talking about the players, not the drunk tailgaters). It’s a feeling of inclusion and a tradition with friends and family.
“There’s just something about being
on a college campus in the fall,” Karim said. “A big part of it is
football. But OU is a big part of the town I grew up in. OU is Norman,
and Norman is OU.”
I may not get the fervor over scores or the willingness to skip out on life every Saturday during the fall, but being somewhere you love with people you cherish? That, I get.
So, will I settle in to watch a game this Saturday? Hell, no.
THE WEIRDEST WAYS TO SUPPORT YOUR TEAM
1. OU cheerleader-themed garden gnome
2. OU-stamped birdhouse (for cardinals only)
3. a letter holder engraved with the OU logo
4. football helmet salt-andpepper shakers
5. OU toothbrush holder
6. OSU cat collar (I know cats. And I know they don’t like football.)
7. Pistol Pete wine bottle stopper
8. OSU garter (yes, as in what brides wear under their wedding gowns)
9. OSU toothbrush
10. college-themed coffins (No, really: The OSU casket is bright orange with the OSU logo emblazoned on the inside.)
Sources: Balfour of Norman, Chris’ University Spirit, Collegiate Memorials