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November 25, 2011

Football in America

Joe Charlebois

Football may not hold the title of “America’s Pastime,” but it is the strongest thread that is woven through the fabric of our American sports quilt.


No other sport engenders the passions of so many Americans as football does. It draws the attention of the diehard fan and the casual fan; one who can debate the effectiveness of the “Tampa 2” as well as the casual fan who can’t tell you the difference between a cornerback and a quarterback.


Growing up 10 miles north of Three Rivers Stadium in the ‘70s, it was hard not to be enveloped into the mystique surrounding the years of Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris and the “Steel Curtain” and the four Super Bowls they brought home to Pittsburgh.


In a very different atmosphere the four years I attended high school in western Pennsylvania, our football team went winless in my freshman year, it went winless my sophomore year, it went winless my junior year. The first game of our senior year we played our archrival. We defeated them for our first victory after 30 straight defeats. We didn’t win another game all year.


The fact that we went 1–9 didn’t matter. In the long run it was the camaraderie of those who played the game, members of the band, the cheerleaders and the fans who attended all the football games that bound the students and community together with a sense of unity. We all supported our team even though we knew we would be overmatched nearly every game. At the end of the season we were proud to have ended the streak.


But at my alma mater, just like most other schools, the biggest time of the school year didn’t revolve around baseball, but football and the homecoming game. As big a basketball and baseball fan as I am, there is nothing that compares to the pageantry of a big homecoming game, the parade and the dance in high schools and the rivalry games in both high school and college.


Attending college at a school without a football team didn’t provide the same unifying effect that schools with one did. We did have a nationally ranked soccer team and a basketball team that won the district championship nearly every year, but there wasn’t that weekly ritual to rally around. They have since reintroduced football to the college and finished second this year in their conference. They are a long way from their Tangerine Bowl victory in 1950, but they are back. Attendance for this small college is good and excitement is growing.


Of course, the National Football League has eclipsed all other sports whether college or pro in the United States; it even draws millions of international fans each weekend through the playoffs and the Super Bowl. This Thanksgiving weekend many families not only sat down with turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, but a dose of the traditional Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys home games on Thanksgiving Thursday.


Even though there may be many who don’t follow football, we all still find that it weaves its way through our lives from the time we can walk until the day we die. It truly is the fabric that ties school communities and cities together.


Enjoy the game!



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