Finding Football Fandom

One thing that you should know about me is that I’m a planner. I moved to the Bay Area in July 2008 with the intent of getting my doctorate in psychology, which was a goal I’d had since I was 15. Yeah, I told you I was a planner. But, a year into my program I realized… no, this wasn’t what I wanted. At all. AT ALL. So, I left and tried to pick up the pieces of the life I had so carefully thought out. It’s funny what something like that will do to a planner’s identity. So in the fall of 2009, I was looking for something.

On September 19, 2009, my husband, a lifelong Stanford fan from North Carolina (I know, right?), took me to Stanford Stadium to attend my first ever college football game. I was skeptical. I was born and raised in England, so American football was confusing to me. What shape is that ball? What exactly is a ‘down’? And, for the love of God, how long does this game last? But, I’m a good sport (pun most definitely intended) and I took my seat in the corner of the shady side endzone. The ref whistled the beginning of the game and what happened next was the catalyst for a major change in my life.

San Jose State kicked off and Wide Receiver/Kick Returner/Resident Badass, Chris Owusu caught the ball. By the time he reached midfield, I was on my feet. By the time he was at the San Jose State 25, I was screaming loudly. He ran 94 yards in about 11 seconds to score the first touchdown of the game. The place erupted and I felt something stir inside of me. “HAS THIS EVER HAPPENED BEFORE?” I screamed to my husband, almost out of breath. I was certain that this was the only time this particular event had occurred in the history of football. “Yes, but it’s pretty rare,” he said laughing. I suspect the rest of the game would have been a comedown from the high of an opening KO return for a seasoned fan. I, however, maintained the intensity/giddiness of a tween at a Bieber concert for the remainder of the 42-17 lashing, long after most of the stadium had emptied.

Needless to say, I was eager to return to Stanford stadium two weeks later when the mighty Cardinal would face the Washington Huskies. In the absence of YouTube, you wouldn’t believe me, but Chris Owusu did it again. He ran the opening kickoff back 91-yards. The crowd roared, the band rejoiced, and the Husky threw up his paws in disbelief. For me, it was a sign; I’d found my happy place. In the fall of 2009, I was looking for something, and I found football.

Since then, I’ve had season tickets each year. I’ve traveled to Washington to see Stanford win 41 to 0, witnessed a triple-overtime game at the Coliseum, showed up at 4 a.m. for College GameDay vs. Oregon, and trekked to Berkeley more times than I’d care to admit. I go to all of the open football practices and radio shows, attend every spring game, watch all one billion hours of NFL draft coverage, and, as of late, host live tweets of old Stanford football games on the twitters (#StanUReDo for those who want to join us). Lots of people view sports fandom as superficial, but I think that comes from a place of misunderstanding. Football is more about strategy, discipline, and psychology than about slinging a ball in the air, and at Stanford I’m proud to root for a program that values academics even more than athletics, yet is wildly accomplished in both. I’m a big fan, a super fan, and I’m honestly not sure what my life would look like without football. It’s enhanced my marriage (my husband claims I know more about football than he does at this point) and I’ve found a whole family of Stanford fans on Twitter, many of whom have become my close friends.

In the fall of 2009, I was looking for something, and I found more than I ever imagined.

As I’m finishing this article, my husband and I are watching a 1982 UCLA/USC game. The announcer mentions Jack Del Rio and my husband asks, “Doesn’t he coach somewhere now?”

“Yep,” I said, “He’s the defensive coordinator for the Broncos. He was rumored to take the USC coaching job last year after they bounced Kiffin.”

What a monster he has created.


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