Column: ESP-Em

It’s football season, and you know what that means. Late night NFL watch parties at Buffalo Wild Wings, spending chilly afternoons at football games, and arbitrary divides all across the country.

You like one team, your roommate likes another. You grew up in Philadelphia and find out all your group project partners are Dallas fans. Or you just told the whole office just how much you dislike Tom Brady and the Patriots, only to find out that your assistant editor is a diehard Pats fan (Sorry, Jacob!). 

Some choose their favorites by location. If you grew up in Michigan, you likely root for the Lions and either Michigan or Michigan State. Plenty of Knoxville residents go to Tennessee Volunteers games, even if they’re not huge Vols fans.

Others choose by players, like when Nick Foles was the Eagles quarterback in the Super Bowl. I’ve never been an Eagles or a Patriots fan, so I was decidedly uninterested in the game results. That is, until I found out Foles is a Liberty online student. Once I found that out, I actively wanted the Eagles to win — not for Philadelphia’s sake, but for Foles’s sake.

So what? What does it matter that one person likes Alabama and another likes Clemson? It’s just your opinion, right?

Wrong. Well, sort of. 

Obviously, your opinion is just your opinion. For the most part, your beloved football teams won’t greatly affect your life aside from the color jersey you wear or what you name your dog.

For the casual fan, football is just that: football. If your team loses, it isn’t the end of the world. I grew up in Texas, so I’m a Cowboys fan. 

Yes, I know that the Cowboys have been a pretty bad team for the better part of my lifetime. Yes, it stinks when they lose. But a football loss or not making the playoffs really doesn’t affect me.

For some, their football opinions are a little more than just an opinion, and their team is a little more than just a team. You know who I’m talking about, the people with Fatheads on their walls or flags flying from their car windows. And it goes beyond the excessive gear they buy or the number of times they’ve made the Browns win the Super Bowl in Madden.

It goes to people like battery-throwing Philadelphia fans or those who disappear for three days out of the week to stress over their Fantasy team. For them, their team is everything, and the outcome of a game can alter the outcome of their entire week. These are the ones who drive less-involved fans away from games and away from football parties.

However, despite all of this division, football is a uniting factor for millions of people across our nation. Even though you disagree with your neighbor on which team is better, you both still enjoy football. And even though it’s cold and nasty and rainy out, you still go with your hall to watch the Liberty football game.

It’s part of why people still watch the Super Bowl, even if they have no interest in the outcome like I did. I still went to a party to watch the game, simply because I wanted to hang out and watch the last football game of the season.

In fact, the unity football brings has saved lives. There was a story shared by several news organizations, including MSN and the Mirror, about a South Carolina police officer who saved a suicidal man’s life by talking to him about the Redskins. 

Fans like the Philadelphia battery throwers are ones who create real division within the sport, and that’s why they’re so notorious. They take something so fun and entertaining for everyone else and make it into something violent.

It’s like losing a Mario Kart — sure, you lost, but that’s okay because it’s just a game. It’s not okay when the kid from down the street chucks the Wii controller through your dad’s TV, ruining the game for everyone else.

So, despite the amount of tension football creates on the surface, and despite the outliers that take the fun out of it for everyone else, football truly is a unifying factor for people in our nation. It’s entertaining, it’s a sport for plenty of young men to play, and it produces strong athletes to be role models for our youth.

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