Football is more than just a game because of the size of its fanbase

Mark Hammontree

There’s something undeniably crazy about college football fans. Spending an entire Saturday in the fall doing nothing but watching football or talking about football or eating cookies shaped like footballs doesn’t exactly make sense when you consider a person’s general needs 
in life.

Football games and all the accompanying pomp and circumstance seem like odd things for a society to completely wrap itself up in, and yet every fall Saturday millions of people descend on college campuses across the country and millions more tune in at home to see college kids fling themselves at each other over an 
oblong ball.

As University of Alabama students, none of us are immune to the effects of this football fever. The campus-wide exultation after a big victory has the campus buzzing with cries of “Roll Tide,” and after a loss, well, no one really wants to talk about anything, especially football. A loss like the kind we were left with Saturday in Oxford, Mississippi, is the kind of thing that can ruin your day, your week, even the whole semester if it ends up keeping us out of the playoffs.

Many a die-hard fan could be found sulking, cussing and in some cases probably even crying Saturday night, overcome with frustration and anger because the Crimson Tide lost. And there was always another group of people nearby, both in real life and on social media, waving off the mourning with the familiar refrain: “Hey, calm down, it’s only a game.”

Football is not just a game. Checkers is a game. Monopoly is a game. Candy Crush, four square and horseshoes are all games, but football and any other team sport with a large fan base is so much more.

When people call football, basketball, soccer or baseball “just a game,” what they typically mean is that these sports, match ups, wins and losses really don’t matter. So your favorite football team lost a game, so what? In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. You’re 
just overreacting.

But football does matter. Basketball does matter. Sports do matter, and that’s because sports are about so much more than players on a field or points on a scoreboard. These sports and teams we go so crazy over are symbols of something much larger than a game; they are vehicles through which we express so much of our nature.

Humans are messy, emotional creatures, overflowing with the faculties of reason and souls and hearts brimming with emotions and feelings. In work and school, in almost every part of society, humans are forced to restrict that messy, emotional side in favor of reason and logic. Football is a safe space where we are allowed to act as ridiculously and illogically as we like. Football is the manifestation of the overwhelming force of human passion, completely untethered, and we see the fruit of it every Saturday and Sunday.

We might as well say a book is only ink and paper, a song is only pretty sounds, snow is only frozen water and a kiss is only a kiss. No, these things and football are so much more than their textbook definitions. They are what awaken the most unstable parts of human nature, for better or worse. But for those of us who have felt the rush of emotion after a game-saving blocked field goal or a last second Hail Mary, we know there is nothing better in this world.

When a player is injured on the field, commentators often say something like, “This a perfect reminder that there are things more important than sports.” They mean that sports are so much more than games. They’re about being passionate enough about something to put your body on the line for a chance to make a play. They’re about rallying around an injured player, praying he’ll be able to return to the field again one day. Because to those fans, those teammates, those coachers and that player, it’s so much more than just a game.

Mark Hammontree is a junior majoring in secondary education – language arts. His column runs weekly.