I am not, how you say, school spirited.
My elementary school was small and private, comprised mostly if not wholly with affluent pseudo-hippies, all like-minded in our abhorrence of anything requiring shoes, much less pom poms.
My high school—the antithesis of my aforementioned alma mater—was large and loud, over populated, understaffed and indisputably boring in the driest sense of the word. School spirit there revolved mainly around a sub sect of tediously inconsistent sports teams, and, never having known or cared about sports of any kind, the experience was more or less lost on me.
This was all going to change, however, with my arrival at a bonafide University, the kind with sororities, sports teams and a myriad of other guilds I’d only ever read about.
I decided first and foremost that my too-cool-for-school attitude had got to go—I was going to become overwhelmingly, enthusiastically immersed in school activities if it killed me. Which, incidentally it almost did…But after all, you’re only 20 once, and when in Rome…right? Right.
So like any good student, I went about enlisting in everything I could on campus. I joined the paper. I rushed a sorority. I took a class aimed exclusively at vetting out unworthy transfer students. I even ate top ramen and bought a Bears t-shirt. I was feeling very Cal-ified, very studenty, very in the know.
So when the first big football game came around, I decided it was time to take on the ultimate challenge: the sporting event. Now, I’ve tried to watch sports before. Honestly, I have. I want to be that girl that can sit on the couch with her boyfriend’s friends, drinking beers and yelling at the tiny NFL (or is it NBA?) players on the screen.
But beer tastes like pond water to me, and the tiny players on the screen never make much sense, so I generally shirked such activities in favor of wine nights and farmers market cooking, Abraham Verghese or the New York Times. I know, I know, I’m 100 years old. But not anymore. Ohh no. I was going to go to that football game, and I was going to like it.
I started out strong. Really, I did.
Going over to a friends house at 10 a.m. to pregame (this actually happens before even morning sports events) I decided that while I could not consume alcohol before at least 12 noon, I could, of course, still attend and enjoy a real live sports game. How bad could it be?
After running around for one solid hour in a sober frenzy, trying to muster up some semblance of enthusiasm, I was ready to go. Cal shirt? Check. Face paint? Double check. School spirit? I was sure it was in there somewhere. Let the games begin. I sat down in the student section, a colored card in hand. (Apparently, somewhere in space the colors spell out “Cal” just in case planes or nearby aliens wonder what collective dumbass is actually watching this event. Whoops! My bad. At the time I was not quite so cynical.)
I cheered. I chanted. I tried honest to god to care or at least understand what was going on every time the players bumped and slid along the grass, trying to catch the godforsaken ball. And you know what? Nothing happened. I still could not seem to shake the indelible feeling that I do not give a rats ass whether or not you catch that damn ball. And so I left. I didn’t even make it to halftime.
The conclusion is either that I am resolutely un-American, or have some sort of vague, autistic disorder that hinders me from being able to connect any sort of empathy for our country’s favorite societal pastime.
I’ll go with the latter. Regardless, I am still convinced that somewhere out there is a sport that I can engage with, and if all else fails I can always blame my parents for never explaining to me the nuances of such events, whether the Superbowl is baseball or football and why, either way, I should give a damn.
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger