This Could Be Our Year: What Football Taught Me About Fandom

Bills

Are you ready for some football?

I know Thursday was technically the beginning of the NFL season (Thanks, Peyton Manning for those fantasy football points!), but tomorrow my beloved Buffalo Bills take the field for the first time this year. The first day of any season—football season, hockey season, Oscar movie season, a new season of one of my favorite TV shows—always fills me with the same feeling: hope.

I like to compare the start of a sports season to Christmas morning. You have no idea what exactly is going to be waiting for you under the tree; this could be the year you get the gift you’ve always wanted, or it could be another year of getting sweaters that don’t fit. But most of us race to the tree on Christmas morning and open that first gift with hearts beating a little bit faster because it’s way more fun to hope for something good than to expect something bad.

It’s the same feeling I got before the midnight screening of The Hunger Games. It’s the same feeling I got watching Harvey walk towards Donna at the end of this week’s episode of Suits, knowing she was the one he wanted to celebrate his big win with. And it’s the same feeling I know I’m going to have right before each season premiere begins in a couple of weeks.

It’s hope—pure and simple. It’s a belief that a movie, TV show, fictional couple, or sports team has the power to make us happy, and it’s a belief that this kind of happiness isn’t all that far away. Even when things don’t turn out perfectly—when your team ends up missing the playoffs again or your favorite show has a subpar season or Harvey doesn’t get into the car with Donna—what matters most is the reminder that we can still find reasons to hope.

I’m pretty sure sports are what taught me to hope. The Bills went to four consecutive Super Bowls when I was a little kid (I’ll omit all the stuff about them losing all four), and my formative years were spent among fans who—even when we faced heartbreak year after year—never lost their sense of hope. I grew up with family members (especially my dad and grandpa) who always believed that this year could be the year—our year. I grew up around passionate football fans (and passionate hockey fans—but I’ll talk more about that next month when that season starts), and I think that taught me so much about fandom from the earliest of ages.

It taught me that there’s nothing better than talking about the things you’re passionate about with other nerds (because sports fans are our own special kind of nerds). It taught me that it’s okay to overreact sometimes because it means you care. It taught me that shared interests can bring people, families, and whole cities together in ways nothing else can. And it taught me that it’s always more fun to choose hope than it is to choose pessimism.

We’re all nerds about something; we’re all fans. So from this football fan to all of you, it’s my wish that these next few weeks of new fandom beginnings give you plenty of reasons to cheer—and plenty of reasons to hope.

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13 thoughts on “This Could Be Our Year: What Football Taught Me About Fandom

  1. Beautifully said, as always. I completely agree with you; hope and anticipation for the thing is sometimes better than the thing itself, but it’s one of my favorite things about sports and various forms of media. That sense of possibility and potential, of the idea that what lies ahead of you could be amazing, is such a powerful feeling. It’s one of the things I love most about every Sounders game I’ve been to, where the crowd does its cheers as the starting lineup is announced and the atmosphere has this buzz to it of the anticipation for the match that you can almost feel on your skin. And that feeling is something that I think everyone has experienced in some form or another, and it’s just one more thing that brings us all together. The sense of shared community in those moments, whether it’s at a movie’s midnight premiere, a book launch, a sports game, or sitting around the tv with someone waiting for that first episode of a new season to start, is one of my favorite things about life. 🙂

    • You’re completely right about the anticipation sometimes being better than the outcome—that’s another thing being a sports fan has taught me over the years. 😉 But the idea that so many people have felt that sense of possibility and optimism for the things they care about is why I love this time of year. So many things are starting—different sports, TV shows, and even kids going back to school. There’s a sense of unlimited potential in moments like this, and I’m sure that’s exactly how you feel at Sounders games, too (because I always feel that way before the Sabres hockey games I go to).

  2. Oh gosh I love this. And I love that sports taught you to hope; I’m sure they have for me as well. I think what they’ve taught me most of all is loyalty. A bad game or a bad season is never enough to make me stop coming back, and I know I’m the same with TV as well. I don’t understand people who can stop watching shows they once genuinely loved–if you loved it once, shouldn’t you always see it through? My dad always says there’s no such thing as a former Packer fan. I feel that way about a lot of shows.
    And I’m totally with you on the importance of being able to talk about your passion with people who share it. I just spent the night waxing poetic about Rose Tyler and Martha Jones with a friend. I also got three emails from my dad about the Packers this past week ALONE. One of them was eleven paragraphs long.
    I come by my obsessive tendencies honestly.

    • I love this comment. Loyalty is definitely something I learned from sports at an early age. Buffalo teams have been bad for so many years, but I learned that you can never give up on them. When you love something, you stand behind it. When a team (or a show or a movie/book series) is yours, you can’t just walk away. You never know when things might get good again, and it’ll feel so much better to see success after you’ve been through the bad times, too.

      “My dad always says there’s no such thing as a former Packer fan.” I think your dad and mine would get along very well. I could totally hear him saying this about the Bills.

      PS: Go Packers! I’m in love with your quarterback, so I love rooting for them every year.

      • Oh Aaron 🙂 I’m in love with him too. And I’ve had a soft spot for the Bills ever since Jim Kelly was your quarterback, because he was the first person I’d ever heard of with my name as a last name, and I thought that was the COOLEST.

        Oh yes. No such thing as a former fan 🙂

  3. “And it taught me that it’s always more fun to choose hope than it is to choose pessimism.”

    As someone who spent yesterday afternoon yelling at my TV screen – first at the Steelers, then at Serena and finally at Eli Manning this to me surmises what makes being a sports fan in particular great. But it is also what makes reading your blog a joy. You write from a place of joy and hope, even in the face of disappointment. It’s a gift and it’s inspiring.

    As someone who spends a lot of time writing for her ‘day job’ this blog reminded me why I loved writing in the first place and got me back to writing for the joy of it again. Here’s to a better week next week for our collective teams!

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who spent yesterday yelling at her TV! I love Eli (I have a bit of a Manning family obsession), so I was rooting hard for him last night. Hopefully next week proves to be better for all of our teams. *Fingers crossed*

      Also, thank you so much for the kind words about my writing. I started this blog to write about what makes me happy, as opposed to writing about what I’m told to write about for my “day job.” I’m honored to think that I could inspire you to do the same (especially because I love reading your writing as well!).

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