I have never claimed to be “normal.” I’m not even sure what that word means, actually. I basically think we’re all a bunch of weirdos traipsing the planet in search of others who share our particular brand of freakishness.
Even so, for football fans, nothing brings out that inner freak like gameday.
Sadly, my own inner freak got put to bed early this season. The Steelers had their playoff hopes nixed by an overtime interception that left me standing in front of the TV as stunned and slack-jawed as Ben Roethlisberger himself.
But the freakshow has been rolling on around me just the same. I live in Baltimore, and this has been nothing short of a historic year for the Ravens. With Ray Lewis retiring and last week’s stunning overtime win against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, the team that brings out the wild and crazy in most of my friends and family seems destined this year.
At least, I hope so. No, really. The Steelers and The Ravens have one of the best and most intense rivalries in the NFL. In years that the tides have rolled the other way and the Steelers have continued on once the Ravens went home, my nearest and dearest have rooted rabidly for “the other team,” whoever that happens to be. But although I’m a Steelers fan for life, my love for them has never come with the flip side of the coin – being a Ravens hater.
Since there’s no hope for my Steelers this year, I might as well see my friends and family be happy. Maybe since my own inner football freak got sent to bed early without supper, I just want to live vicariously through the ongoing local dose of crazy.
Being out of it has given me time to reflect on the whole Football Freakitude phenomena. What is it about this game that makes so many of us act in ways we’d point and laugh at in a “non-sports” scenario? Let me give a few examples of what I mean.
1. If I wear a particular Steelers jersey or shirt during a game and they win, it must be worn again for the following game. This continues until they lose. Then I change it up until the next shirt in the cycle becomes a “loser shirt.” Yes, I know the Steelers are not looking at my gameday outfits and going “Really? The Polamalu jersey again? What about the rest of us?” But I do it anyway. (Sidenote: At least I’m not one of those people who won’t wash their ‘lucky outfit’ before the next game. Laundry is perfectly OK in my football obsessive compulsive regimen).
2. My partner and I cannot watch Steelers/Ravens games together. He’s a die-hard fan of the Purple Birds. But unlike me, his love of them DOES come with the expected hate of the rival team. He has almost as much “Steelers Suck” paraphernalia as he does Ravens gear. So for our sanity, we kiss good-bye on gameday afternoon and I head off to watch the game with my Steelers fan girlfriends.
3. My parents have three televisions – one in their family room, one in the living room, and one in the bedroom. When watching the Steelers, my mother will pick one TV to get started. If things aren’t going our way, she’ll move to another in search of the “lucky TV.” Sometimes this means she races through the house like a madwoman and her dogs hide in the basement.
4. My former boss is a fellow Steelers fan. When he moved away, he started texting me with a “Go Steelers” before each game. The Steelers had a winning streak. He was busy one gameday and didn’t text. The Steelers lost. We decided that those texts were good luck, and I get nervous when we miss one.
5. A fellow Steelers fan friend does a shot of Tuaca before each game. The shot must not happen too early or too late. And it must be done.
6. I often watch games like a squeamish but curious person at a horror flick. I put my hands over my eyes, leaving just enough space between my fingers to peek during critical offensive or defensive moments. Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Wrong Turn? They got nothing on the football fear factor.
7. No matter what the Steelers do on Sundays, my Mondays are going to be the same. I’m going to go to work, be stuck in endless meetings, and wish I was home writing instead. But when I greet a Monday after a Steelers win, I’m almost a ray of sunshine anyway. After a loss, I’m a grinchy creature best avoided until I have fed myself copious amounts of coffee.
These are just a few examples of how a relatively rational, functioning girl like me becomes a straight-up weirdo during football season. And I know I’m not alone. Thankfully, I’m not quite as out there as the Ravens fan who went up on his roof and said he wouldn’t come down until the Purple Birds won a game several years ago, but still.
The logic in me knows that the outcome of a game will never be decided by what shirt I wear, when my friend does her shot, which TV my mother watches or whether my ex-boss and I exchange texts. But the heart of a goofball fan is a funny thing. If you walk around refusing to step on cracks so you don’t break your mother’s back, I’m gonna suggest you get medication. On a Steelers gameday, feel free to tell me the same.
Since my team usually takes me into the playoffs, locking away my crazy for the year so early has been strange. But it has given me a chance to observe the loony-toonery of others with fresh eyes. And yes, football freakitude is universal.
What about you? Do you do weird, silly, superstitious things when you watch your favorite team in your chosen sport, or are you free of the freakitude?
Are you hoping for a particular outcome in the Superbowl this year or just along for the ride? Me, I’d like to see the Harbaugh brothers take each other on.
Either way, my inner freak is chillin’ and resting up for next year.