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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