...for those of us whose teams will probably suck this year. Especially if that sentence ends with an implied "Again".
We chose this.
Maybe it was the pomp and circumstance of the occasion. Maybe it was the flash of brass as a marching band paraded up the street. Maybe it was the brilliant green shining out of the TV with seventy thousand people roaring in the background. Maybe it was the fact that everybody else was talking about it. Maybe it was a father, or a sister, or a friend, or somebody else who first handed you the T-shirt, or the miniature jersey, or that oblate brown spheroid with the white laces on one edge.
And it took over our lives. Voices on the radio that were familiar as our own family. Names of young men who passed through our lives for a few years and remain legends to us decades on. Songs that we sing at our own wedding receptions - or will have sung for us at our funerals. Chants and cheers and gestures and bumper stickers. And traditions and superstitions. As Nick Hornby said of another kind of football, "what else can we do when we're so weak?" Incantations at every snap, ballcaps tilted just so and filthy from twenty years' use, chants held back until over the 50. Statues rubbed, alcohol-soaked cherries consumed, hours spent crouched just so for fear of breaking the spell if you move even an inch. Somebody once asked me if I was a praying man. "Every single third down."
And it stuck. Even if the rest of the fan base was underwhelming. Even when you couldn't pull off one lousy bowl win in four decades. Even if you never actually went to the school - or only went for a little bit of grad school, or just grew up nearby, or married into it - and only set foot on campus for those few blessed gamedays when you get to see your guys live and in person. Even thought you have a spouse, and kids, and a job, and a mortgage, and a million things in your life that you know should be more important that what a few dozen college boys do on a Saturday afternoon. Even though you'll go years without sniffing a national championship. Or a bowl game. Or hell, maybe even without a winning season.
But we keep coming back.
Maybe it was because it was the only time all week when a seven-year-old could scowl "aw, bullshit" at an interception and know that Dad wouldn't care because he was scowling it too. Maybe it was because after years at a school without football, you wanted part of the experience you could really call your own. Maybe it was because you married somebody who carried the team and the band and the school in her heart for 20 years. Maybe we didn't choose it at all.
But it chose us, and we went without a fight.
So even though we're not in the BCS picture, not in the top 25 - hell, maybe some of our teams shouldn't even be playing football - we're still there, in spirit if not in person, screaming, shouting, doing deals with God, living and dying with every snap. Because even if we're never going to be clutching a crystal football, even if ESPN's never coming to OUR city, even if we're going to be a punchline for another season - it's our team, and our game, and we love it.