It’s a seminal moment for football fans.
But each fan has a specific reason why the beginning of the NFL regular season, which this year is taking place this weekend, is special to them.
I could go on and on about how fans live for this time. It is their guilty pleasure, giving them a chance to take a brief respite from the rigors of the real world each week, and even each day, to throw their emotions – their heart and soul – into something that is simply a whole heckuva lot of fun.
Sure, the way that non-football fans look at it winning a football game doesn’t discover a cure for cancer, foster world peace, feed the hungry or find housing for those on the streets. But in very public ways to a lot of people, how a team performs either provides a bounce in their step, or puts them into a bad mood. It allows those residents to either puff out their chests and proudly and loudly proclaim for all the world to hear, "Hey, I’m from (fill in the blank of any of the 32 NFL cities)!," or, "Excuse me while I hide my face and go sulk in the corner."
Indeed, the Patriots, with all of their Super Bowl championships, have been a walking, talking Chamber of Commerce advertisement for all that is good about Boston and the New England region.
I think most people, even non-fans, though probably grudgingly so, realize that. They may not like it, but they know that it’s good for everybody in that locale.
Again, however, within that broad prospective are the personal stories of each fan – stories that may be known only to a small circle of people. As interesting as the paint-with-a-broad-brush look at how a pro football franchise helps with a city’s image, is, I find those individual tales so much more intriguing, heartwarming and riveting. They say a whole lot about who we are as a people.
That’s the way it is in each NFL city. Being that The Suburbanite’s coverage area is located just an hour south of Cleveland, almost all of our stories involve the Browns, who, as they open their season on Sunday by hosting the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium, have more hope and optimism than has been the case in two decades.
I had a neighbor whose husband was a diabetic and as such had to be on a strict meal schedule. She loved football, and the Browns, and he didn’t know anything, or care anything, about either one.
Upon coming home from church each Sunday, she would prepare him lunch. Then she would tell him politely and lovingly, but in no uncertain terms, that he had to make sure to get filled up because she wasn’t about to take time away from watching the Browns until the game was over. Her dad had been a big Browns fan, so growing up in that household and loving her dad, she became a big fan of the team as well.
There’s a lot of that everywhere in fandom, with children following in the footsteps of their parents – dads AND moms alike.
One time while at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, I ran into a lady who spoke, with her voice breaking and ears in her eyes, what the 1980 Browns season, which had a lot of excitement with nearly every game not being decided until the very end, meant to her and her family growing up.
A lot of those parents are gone now. That includes mine, with my dad having been an ardent fan of the Browns from their very start and my mom, though she didn’t follow them, realized the importance of the team to her two guys and selflessly did everything she could to make our Sundays enjoyable. God bless her for that.
So, then, it is at this time of year, with the football season beginning and those memories of days and experiences gone by still very fresh in our minds, that emotions run high for fans in a variety of ways. That’s why it’s such a special time, and a seminal moment.
It might be just "silly football" or "dumb ol’ sports" to some of us you, and I get that.
But to many of us, it’s part of our identity. Since we can remember, which for some is a long, long time, it’s what we’ve been doing at this time of year, every year.
Thanks for understanding.