College Football’s Common Ground Is Still Here, and Still Worth Celebrating

by Wes Blankenship
(Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

I recently asked my wife what excites her about a new college football season.

No reason in particular. I was just genuinely curious what she thought about it. Typically, this is a question I would avoid in years past. 

The nights and weekends I spent working due to football and other sports meant we missed out on quite a few of our friends’ weddings together.

Friends stopped asking me if I could show up to their weekend backyard parties. People stopped asking her “Where’s Wes?” when she showed up to social gatherings solo. It was difficult for both of us. It took a lot of communication. And a lot of it wasn’t fun.

Ultimately, we understood that this was the career path we chose, together, when we were dating and eventually married. If I happened to ask her about football during those years working in sports media, it was almost certainly because I wanted to know how her friends thought a fall wedding in the South could possibly be a good idea.

Couldn’t they at least schedule it on the weekend when Georgia played a FCS school?

“What’s a FCS school?” she might ask.

“It’s an over-matched team that shows up to something it knows will be agony, but gets paid to do so,” I’d respond.

Gears would turn in my head.

Even FCS schools had it better than the exasperated souls frantically checking the Georgia-Auburn score on their cell phones,” I would think.

At least the football team gets compensated.”

Our Weekends Will Never Be Completely Free of Football

We both went to Georgia. We started dating in Columbia, Missouri, the weekend Mizzou played its first SEC game against the Dawgs in 2012.

She has sports fatigue after putting up with my life in sports broadcasting, and I don’t blame her for it. (Occasionally, I do like to remind her that she cried when Alabama beat Georgia in the 2012 SEC Championship.)

College football is all around us. It is part of our story. I just don’t have to leave her alone every weekend anymore. We’re together again. Now a little one tags along, too.

With that in mind, I felt like it wouldn’t be the worst question in the world:

“What excites you about a new college football season?”

Her answer put a smile on my face wider than the literal and figurative distance between the Southeastern Conference and the Pac-12.

“It’s the community,” she told me. “The tailgating, obviously. But more than that, it’s the collective effort of millions of people rallying around something. And hundreds of thousands rallying around their own teams.”

She paused. And then summed it up with a little more truth.

“I think for a lot of people it’s a distraction from their real-life stress. And we all need that. This is just the specific activity that brings this specific community together. You can feel that energy.”

Ok, so I paraphrased some of that. I didn’t edit her sentiment, though. I hope we can remember it this season. There will be unavoidable political conversations because of the pandemic and, well, because it seems as if every conversation is one second away from the political anyway these days.

People are concerned that the onset of NIL freedoms will ruin the passion of college football. All of these looming realities are there. Do not expect them to go away. Process them how you need to. You may share a tailgate tent and a couple plates and a few cold ones with people who process them the same way you do. Hopefully you’re able to share all of that with people who process them differently, too.

I sincerely hope the collective ‘we’ in this college football neighborhood don’t ultimately get distracted from college football’s greatest truth.

That Common Ground Is Still Here, Too

Those external distractions exist.

The weekly distraction that allows us to trade in the stress we don’t choose, for the 60-minute stress that we do, isn’t going anywhere, either.

We’re together again. So ask yourself the question, and celebrate the answer:

“What excites you about a new college football season?”