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I don’t try to deny it. I hate football. Or rather, in stereotypical female fashion, I simply don’t understand it. I never bothered to learn because it just didn’t appeal to me. So when my brother handed me a ticket to the 86th Rose Bowl game, I looked at it, then told him to have a good time. After all, he actually likes football.
“No,” he laughed. “It’s for you. I want you to come.”
Now it was my turn to laugh. What was I going to do at a football game?
After much convincing, though, I agreed to go. I figured my arguments against the game would be stronger if I could say that I actually went to one, and hated it.
And so it happened that I – the one who organized anti-Superbowl parties (complete with a sit-down dinner and a stack of romance movies) – ended up at the Stanford-Wisconsin game last year.
Don’t get me wrong. I love sports. I’ve played tennis, softball and volleyball since elementary school and I love my Lakers. But I never seemed to quite get the hang of football.
Walking among the 80,000 people at the Rose Bowl that January afternoon, I felt like I was going to drown in a Red Sea. I knew I should at least try to enjoy myself, since the game was three hours long, but admittedly, I didn’t have the best attitude going in.
From my seat in the student section, though, I couldn’t help but laugh at the band and join in with the cheers of the crowd. And by halftime, my voice was already hoarse from yelling.
It wasn’t so much the football that got me. I’m not even sure if half the people around me were there for the actual game. Even my brother was having more fun joking with friends and waving his Stanford flag around than following the action on the field.
The energy was infectious. I saw entire families dressed in Stanford regalia, from the 80-year-old alumnus in his letterman sweater to the 18-month-old baby, barely able to walk but fiercely clutching a Stanford rattle. And what I realized was that, just like me, these fans didn’t love football – but they loved their school.
I have yet to experience the same sense of overwhelming spirit. No matter that Stanford didn’t even win the game; the excitement was enough. Just the common tie to Stanford was enough to link together all sorts of people, from young to old, male to female, hard-core football fans to “I’d-rather-bake-a-quiche” non-football types like me. But if the Cardinal spirit can make even me, the most disbelieving of disbelievers, enjoy a football game, it’s definitely something worth reliving.
Or maybe I’m just beginning to like football.
Then again, I doubt that.
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