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I remember my first college football game like it was yesterday. Gazing across the lot, seeing rows upon rows of trucks, RVs with TVs playing whatever game was on, people under tents swilling liquor and moonshine pulls and girls in sundresses as far as the eye could see. I was severely sunburnt, not entirely drunk enough, and someone threw up and it splattered on my shoes, but I was addicted.
Growing up, I never really watched much college football. I grew up in a terrible state where no one cared about the state’s college football team (it rhymes with Buttgers) as sports coverage was dominated by professional teams. Sure I enjoyed going to the Bronx to see the Yankees, MSG to see the Rangers or the occasional Giants or Jets game, but honestly, I never really got into it that much. Upon arriving on campus, I had never seen school pride. Everyone was completely and totally devoted, regardless of political affiliation, race, sex or creed.
The atmosphere at college football games (pending your team doesn’t have gestapo party laws or you go to BYU) has a feeling of electricity in the air that I’ve yet to ever experience elsewhere. I’ve been to quite a few NFL games, but they just don’t do it like they do for college games. I know that people tailgate and have fun at NFL games, but to me, it’s not a connection like one has with their alma mater. Part of what makes college football great is that the same kids playing on the field are in your class on Monday. In grad school, two former first round picks were students in my class. One day, one of them spotted me out at the bar. He had come back to celebrate being drafted. He remembered me being his GTA, we made small talk, I congratulated him and did a shot with him.
The great part about college football is that every season holds new hope. The team may have fallen short of predictions, won more than they were supposed to, or been a complete dumpster fire like Mizzou’s, but each new fall brings in a chance to see greatness or at least a chance to see improvements. Bringing a key recruit, watching diamonds in the rough mature right before your eyes, or seeing a program legend play makes me nostalgic just thinking about it.
I live for the six to seven home game weekends, the away game parties and the bye weeks spent watching other conference foes. I start talking with my fellow tailgaters around mid-summer to plan our tailgating menu. I’ve locked down a tailgate since grad school and the number of partiers has continued to grow. I also love that my out-of-town friends (those lucky/smart enough to move away postgrad) always come to visit.
I know when August hits that it’s all a waiting game. It’s been tough since EA stopped making NCAA Football a few years back, but I’ve managed. Many of you reading this may have attended a college with solid sports or have a particular allegiance and know what I’m talking about. I can’t wait to smell the sizzling foods on the grill, hear the band play, drink myself back to a 20-year-old undergrad and sing Country Roads..