Inspired by Bronco Nation, I wrote this essay for my college English class. As football fans, I hope you enjoy it.
Little girls are read stories of Cinderella and Snow White. So they grow up dreaming of being a princess and falling in love. Little boys are told stories of dragon slayers and knights. So they grow up dreaming of being knights and saving princesses. Being a football player is the modern-day equivalent of a being a knight. Glory, pride, and brotherhood are the common bonds between all great warriors, and those are the binding ties of football. Young men want a little taste of glory, to be like Achilles, a legendary demigod. Young men want the feeling of pride after a victory, the way kings felt after a triumphant war. Young men want a sense of brotherhood, to be a part of a greater meaning, like the knights of Camelot.
There is heavy breathing in the air, hearts are pounding, palms are sweating, and the men are ready for battle. The smoke is wafting around their bodies, their armor is tight and uncomfortable, they charge the battle field now. Soon they will meet their enemy. These are not soldiers of an ancient, long forgotten army. They are football players. Lives are not at stake, and people are not dying, but the looks on the players' faces say differently. Football has turned into a larger than life experience for all of the people involved, from coaches and player to fans and parents. Players for colleges have no lives of their own because they eat, breathe, sleep, and study football. Their schedules are centered around football, not school. They wake up, workout, eat, go to class, eat, go to meetings, go to practice, eat, shower and sleep. The players are surrounded and engulfed by this sport.
Much like the peasants of old, the fans of today cheer on their team with a gusto that can convince any man he is invincible. Men, women, and babies rally around their team's players as they march to the field, the same way men, women, and babies rallied around their army's soldiers as they marched to war. Why after all this time do people still behave this way? After observing this, I believe that it is in people's nature to want to be the best. We cheer for our teams because we believe in them. They are the best, we think, our team is unstoppable. The fans and players feel that if they believe enough they can't be defeated, but sooner or later the dream dies. This is seen every year at the end of high school football seasons. Senior players cannot fathom that it's over. They will never play under those lights again. They will never suit up and charge that field again. They cannot understand how they worked so hard and put so much effort into something only to have it end because a clock hit 00:00. The fans are stunned that it's all come to an end. The players will fall to their knees, cling to each other and cry. Parents will watch in a stunned silence as their babies fall to pieces. These young, proud, strong men will sob with an overwhelming sorrow for the death of an era. It is perplexing that something that involves so much faith and love can just be over so callously. The players may have not died but they will never be the same after leaving the war game of football.
What is it about legends that captivate us so? Is it their larger than life aspects, the heroism, or the fact that deep inside everyone wishes they have the qualities to be one? Hercules, Achilles, King Arthur, Robin Hood, William the Lion Heart, Odysseus, and William Wallace were all legendary men. It is that status that young men want to achieve. Is this why men reminisce so much about their high school football careers? Is it because they are telling their legend? From observing former football players who are now in college, it appears that men will tell their stories as soon as there is an opening. Even if the people have heard it once or twice before, the story will still be told. I have noticed this with several different groups and it is a consistent event. Men share their stories of football the way cowboys tell stories around a camp fire, always larger than life and superbly entertaining. By doing this men are ensuring their story lives on through word of mouth, and maybe if it is told enough they too can be legends. I believe people do this in order to not be forgotten. Everyone wants to be remembered, and football is a way to accomplish this.
Why do young boys work so hard for a game? Is it the glory of the lights on Friday night or is it the pride of being the best? After listening to many conversations about football I have concluded that it is both. A player cannot have true glory without the pride of knowing he earned it, and a player cannot have pride when there is no appreciation for that effort. This is why winning is so important. People do not remember the losers of a game. Winning is the representation of pride and glory meeting to become perfection. This is why winning means so much.
Just how people did not cheer for a losing gladiator, casual fans do not cheer for a losing team. This can be seen when fans become frustrated when their team is playing poorly and losing. Some fans will leave the stadium when they lose hope of their team winning. Interestingly enough these fans have the same reaction when their team is winning by a large margin. Dedicated fans stay no matter what though. This is seen at college football games all around America. After observing football games I have noticed that particular fans will leave when there is no hope; either no hope of their team winning, or no hope for the other team making a comeback. These fans that are not truly dedicated like the drama of the game. When the game is very one sided, noncommittal fans lose interest. When a game lacks excitement the fair weather fans will eventually leave to find a different source of amusement, usually a bar. This is tragic because players and coaches strive for perfection. Once they attain that the half-hearted fans become disinterested due to the fact that they are no longer entertained. True fans however will always support their team, even in the bitter cold or when they lose a game. Real fans do not abandon hope because of a missed field goal or fumble.
What is it that holds a team together? After talking to different people the universal answer was brotherhood. The sense of belonging and family is what keeps players bonded together even after a season has long ended. The popular song by Kenney Chesney, "Boys of Fall" illustrates this concept perfectly when he sings, "You mess with one man, you got us all." Each and every player has the other players' backs when it comes to outsiders. Players will not all be friends but when a person from outside the team is clashing with a teammate the other members will be at his side. This is the social equivalent of the ancient Spartans' phalanx where every man protected his fellow soldiers to his right and left, as they did for him. That sense of duty to protect one another can last far longer than the season. That intangible camaraderie can endure for a lifetime between certain people. This is why men are so proud to be on a team and so lucky to have that support system.
As emotionally deep as the game of football is the only question I wanted answered was "Why do we love the game so ardently?" Through observation I have inferred that it is because it creates a bond among people that is so instinctive and natural it is hard to notice. The game of football brings people together for a greater purpose than themselves. As individuals, very few people impact the game in a meaningful way, but as a group, all of the fans come together and have meaning. People will always want to be bigger than themselves and football enables that. Also football gives people a reason to come together. People talk to strangers and make new acquaintances over the common bond of football. Those acquaintances then become friends all because of football. These are the two most prevalent reasons that people love this game so passionately.
When knights suit up, they put on armor and a helmet. When football players suit up, they put on pads and a helmet. Both walk onto battlefields with their brethren and pray to be victorious. Pride, glory, and brotherhood define both of these elite groups of soldiers. Some fought for a King, others for a coach. All aspire to be legendary and pray to never fail. This is what makes football so mesmerizing; the struggle to reach that mythical level and be remembered after all is said and done.