This weekend is the second leg of my four-week college football road trip, which is being generously sponsored by La Quinta.
The excursion could not have come at a better time for me as a sports fan.
My Sports Burnout Confession
I’m 31 years old. And for every second of my life that I can remember, sports have been an integral part of my life. This is the natural result of growing up the son of a football coach and having a mom who probably loves football even more than he does.
The best way I can sum it up is this: we had a magnet on our refrigerator door when I was a kid that said “Football is not a matter of life and death; it’s much more important.” This wasn’t hyperbole.
In our family, and in any family where sports pay the bills, such a sentiment is undeniably true.
And football wasn’t even my favorite sport growing up!
I’m from Bloomington, Indiana, and we had season tickets to the IU basketball games when Bob Knight was still more deity than man in the Hoosier State. Being a football fan was my birthright; but being a basketball fan was my prerogative, and I dove in head first and never really looked back.
That was probably 24 or so years ago. Which means that for the vast majority of my life, I’ve been sports-obsessed both by necessity and by choice, and I’ve never really questioned it. Nor has the interest level or time spent indulging in sports consumption ever waned.
Until the last several months.
As soon as March Madness ended, capping an Indiana basketball season that was exhausting but one of the most rewarding sports fan experiences I’ve ever had, I just felt…done. It was weird, but the previously omnipresent sports interest and energy was mysteriously just not there anymore.
Sure, I still had my MLB.tv pass and followed the White Sox. I even launched a new White Sox podcast for a few months. But my heart wasn’t really into it. Hence why I just kind of stopped doing the podcast. We make time for things we care about. The rest tends to fall by the wayside.
I kept paying attention to my fantasy baseball teams, but only doing the bare minimum to maintain competitive integrity in the league. I barely studied at all for my fantasy football drafts. I canceled my cable in a knee-jerk reaction after accidentally leaving the TV on ESPN’s First Take.
And even as this NFL season has started, while I’ve enjoyed watching 49ers games, of course, I haven’t sat down and watched even a minute of another game. I just…don’t care. It’s not like I’ve been trying to not care, like it’s some kind of silent boycott against the NFL’s over-promotion. I just legitimately haven’t cared. I haven’t felt like I’ve been missing anything.
Which has been weird, but actually kind of nice in a way.
Because in the place of sports I’ve picked up new hobbies like yoga, I’ve gotten into better shape, I’ve read, I’ve caught up on TV series that interested me, I’ve gone out and had adventures here in Dallas, exploring the city more in the last five months than in the previous 3 and a half years combined.
So I am not lamenting my unplanned quasi-sports hiatus in any way. It’s been a huge positive all around. I needed it.
But I have to admit, there is a part of me that would like to get a little bit of the old sports excitement back, especially with the White Sox in a great pennant race, the 49ers looking like Super Bowl contenders, and my Hoosiers ready to being the season as a national title favorite. I’ve put up with a lot of sports misery over the years, and finally my teams are all converging as good, contending teams at one time.
If ever there was a time for me to be excited about sports, this would be it!
Yet, I’m still really not.
Or at least I wasn’t. Until now.
Our Much-Anticipated Adventure to Lincoln
And this brings me back to the La Quinta-sponsored college football trip.
Last week I got to take my little brother Bryce to his first ever college football game. We went to Norman, Oklahoma, and it was awesome.
But while I enjoyed seeing how a big time football program goes about its Saturday, it’s not like there was anything that really made me ooh and ahh.
For Bryce though, it was all new, and even though he tends to be a bit reserved, there were moments of genuine excitement and awe that peaked through. They reminded me of why I fell in love with sports in the first place.
This weekend, I head to Lincoln, Nebraska, and I made perhaps a curious choice for who to bring as a guest with me.
I’m bringing someone who really has no conception of what a Saturday is like on a big-time college football campus, someone who knows football but doesn’t know football like I, my family, and most of my friends do.
Just to give you an example, not five minutes ago she just sent me this message: “What colors do Huskers wear? Red?” It’s safe to say that if you don’t know the colors of Nebraska, one of the most storied college football programs in history, taking in a homecoming football weekend in Lincoln is going to be a pretty new experience.
And that’s exactly why my dear friend Genesis, who you may know from our fantasy football mailbag, is the perfect person to bring along this weekend.
Already, I am finding myself feeding off of her excitement. Granted, Genesis tends to just be generally excited about life. It’s one of her most endearing qualities. But she’s emanating a special excitement this week every time we discuss the trip.
She is genuinely enthused about diving right into being “a Nebraskan,” as she detailed on her blog today. She really has no idea what she is about to experience, yet she can’t wait to do all of it.
Whereas I’ve been to big games, done the tailgate thing, gone out many times in a college town on a crazy sports weekend…she hasn’t. So all of these elements of Saturday that are fun but that I admittedly take for granted – that I see as “been there, done that” even though it’ll be fun to do them again – she is bursting with excitement to see and do for the first time.
Falling In Love With Sports For The First Time…Again
And I realized last night while talking with her about the trip that I wish I could back and see it all for the first time again, like she is about to do.
I can faintly remember the awe I felt the first I was on the sideline for an IU football game, or the first time I was in Assembly Hall during the famous under-8 minute second half timeout. I remember sprinting to Kirkwood after Indiana upset Duke in the 2002 Sweet 16. Those are great memories. Cherished memories. But I’d love to able to live them again.
Those moments are what make a sports observer a sports fan. Those moments are what give these silly games meaning. And the elements of camaraderie and community that are shared, in particular, on a college campus around a big game are what make it not so trivial after all to care about these “silly games.”
It’s easy to take them for granted or become bored by it all – or even worse, to become a jaded sports fan. And I think that’s happened to me over the past several months. Again, it’s been a positive in some ways, perhaps necessary, but I don’t want it to last forever.
And thanks to this college football road trip, I think I’m starting to snap out of it.
More important than just the road trip itself, it’s having great guests like Bryce and Genesis, and the people I have lined up for the next two trips, that are really making this a special experience.
I’ve realized it’s hard for me to find new ways to fall in love with sports based on just my own experience. But I can rekindle those old feelings, and make them feel new again, by experiencing different elements of sports vicariously through others who are doing so for the first time. It happened with Bryce last weekend, and it will happen with Genesis this weekend. And I can’t wait.
I have a feeling some of you may feel like I do, which is why I can’t wait to share the experience Genesis and I are about to have with you. And share we will!
To follow along with Genesis and I this weekend:
- Check for posts and photo diaries here at MSF
- Videos at YouTube.com/JerodMSF
- Tweets from @JerodMorris and @GenesisMeranda
- Follow the hashtag #LaQuintaTrip
- Instagrams (jerodmorris and genesismeranda)
- And plenty of fun Facebook status updates (Facebook.com/JerodMSF)
If you are from Nebraska or have been there, feel free to shoot us suggestions in the comment section for places to go. We won’t be able to do everything, but we’re sure going to try.
And hopefully, through the wide eyes of the newest Nebraskan, I’ll be able to fall in love with another aspect of sports for the first time, all over again. Something tells me I will.