It's past time for another entry in this series, and football season is well underway. Unlike some of the other sports I've discussed, football is not one I've ever really played. I am exclusively a TV football watcher and an armchair critiquer, albeit one with the ability to get interested most games, whether or not I have any history of caring about the teams involved (see rooting hierarchy at the bottom of this post).
My family has a football history that I've always felt connected to, even though I am way too young to have known the primary person involved. You see, my grandmother's uncle was Knute Rockne of "win one for the Gipper" fame. His family--my great-grandmother's family--emigrated from Voss, Norway to Chicago, and he ended up coaching at Notre Dame. My grandmother lived in South Bend as well for the entire time that I knew her, and sometimes talked about going to Knute Rockne-related events. I know she was proud of the association, and I have the now-decrepit Notre Dame gear to prove it. My family's trip to Norway for the Rockne Family Reunion in 1994 (I think?) was one of the more memorable events of my childhood.
My earliest memories of football involve watching the Utes with my dad, especially rivalry games with BYU. Usually we would watch on TV, but sometimes we would walk up to the stadium and actually go to a game, which was incredibly exciting for young me. We lived close enough to the U of U campus (dad always walked or biked to work) that I could usually hear the marching band practicing from my bedroom window, especially on quiet nights. At some point before I went to high school, our family's football enthusiasm died off, I'm not sure exactly why. I still cared in an oblique way about the Utes, but I focused my attention on my high school team, attending the occasional game and reveling in our victories over East High. My college team was pretty awful (our swim team was much better), although I did attend games to support my friend in the pep band. We did occasionally manage to beat Kenyon or OWU. I never embraced the fervor for Ohio State football that many of my classmates had been born and bred to. During my graduate school stint at the University of Wisconsin, I embraced Badger football, although I never got to attend a game.
I remember watching the Bears win the Superbowl in the 80s, and being vaguely happy about it. Growing up in Utah, there is pretty much a void in terms of which NFL team you should like. The Broncos are the closest choice, I guess, but Denver is an eight hour drive away. A lot of my classmates liked the Raiders, probably because it was cool, but then Raiders gear was banned from school. After I moved to New England, I started to watch the Patriots whenever I got the chance. My partner disliked football, but the sport eventually won her over during the run up to one of the Superbowls. I do try to catch the Patriots games if at all possible, although I wouldn't call myself a "die-hard" fan. I would like to actually go to a game some time, but I think the stars would have to align for that to happen.
In the meantime, I very much enjoy flipping through the channels on a Saturday or Sunday and rooting for teams using the following hierarchy:
Definitely root for: Utah, Wisconsin, Iowa, Notre Dame, Kansas
If they're not playing, root for: Anyone in the Big Ten vs. any other conference (above excluded). Determine rooting for within-Big-Ten conference games via complicated formula.
If no Big Ten games, root for: The underdog. Whoever has better uniforms (this excludes the Oregon Ducks automatically).
If none of the above: Change the channel, it's probably not worth trying to watch college football.
Definitely root for: Patriots, Bears
If they're not playing, root for: The Broncos, teams that have former Patriots players that aren't jerks
If none of the above, root for: The underdogs of the Midwest.
If no believable underdogs, root for: A good football game, maybe one with a safety or successful on-side kick.