After dinner, my sister-in-law will sit a big coffee mug on the counter, fill it 3/4 of the way up with milk, dump 3 to 4 heaping tablespoons of sugar into it and then top it off with a splash of coffee. This has been going on, with a couple of long breaks to allow for the gestation of human life within her womb and the subsequent feeding of said human life, for well over a decade now.
At one point, five or six years ago, I looked at her and said, “You know. I think you’re going to have to come to grips with the very real possibility that you don’t like coffee.”
At some point in the early aughts – 2000, 2001, somewhere around there – I had a roommate that was a Minnesota Vikings fan who lobbied successfully to order NFL Sunday Ticket. In order to justify the expense, I felt like I really had to take advantage of all the games I had access to that I wouldn’t get to watch otherwise. Thus began a long affair with watching lots of football.
I also played in two fantasy leagues for years. I had a lot of fun doing these things.
And of course, I watched every single IU football game. That’s a lot of football for someone who did not grow up a football fan.
And then, at some point a few years ago, I realized that I’d rather spend some of my Sunday doing things outside, or reading, or hanging out with my family, and I cut back on my football watching.
Two years ago, I cut NFL Sunday Ticket from my programming package. It just wasn’t worth it.
Last year, I barely watched any NFL, preferring to spend my football watching dollars on IU and on Liverpool in the Premiere League and one of my fantasy league folded and I made no effort to replace it.
This year, I thought long and hard about quitting my other league when the time came to confirm or disconfirm my participation. I ended up rejoining, but the amount of time I spent researching my draft was less time that I spend making oatmeal in the morning.
And then, Thursday night. I got on the train after a longer than normal day at work and realized the IU football game was going to start in 30 minutes. I fought with my DirecTV app to try and record the game, but it wasn’t cooperating with me. Following ten minutes of deleting and reinstalling the app, it gave me another error message and I gave up.
It was 6:45 CDT and I was sitting at my kitchen table finishing dinner before I remembered there was a game to watch.
I spent the next three hours kind-of paying attention to what was going on and went to bed with five minutes to play in the 4th quarter.
We won the game, I confirmed the next morning, but this was a first for me. I missed both the beginning and the end of the game, by choice.
Faced with this trend of decreasing active participation in both college and NFL football, I find myself in the position where I must ask myself very seriously if I actually like football.
I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night screaming with the realization that I hate football, but I don’t want to continue drinking a giant glass of sugar milk and pretending it’s coffee either.
For IU football, this season is about only one thing: Going back to a bowl game and proving that the program is actually on an upward trajectory.
For me, this season is about trying to figure out if I hate football.
Between you and me, I hope I end up feeling about football the way Homer realized he felt about Ted Koppel and this will all be a bad dream.
Now, go back to sleep, Marge. I can tell by the look on your face that this isn’t that interesting to you.