I never played football at any level, but I always envied my friends that did — especially during game week.
From what I understand, the routine of game week is sacred in nature. Carefully practiced and almost ritualistic, every day is a sort of meditative preparation for the game ahead. Of course, there are practices. Sure, there are meetings. But I also always heard tell of team dinners, film sessions, late nights talking about the opponent. With a sport as rigidly scheduled as football — with the rare exception, games are always on the same day — every day of the week takes on a special weight that isn’t common to other team sports with more common games (basketball, baseball, soccer, etc.)
Despite my lack of playing experience, however, I’ve found there to be an equally superstitious way in which fans go about game week.
For at least one day, you’ll reflect on the week gone by. What did my team do wrong? Where did they improve? What adjustments can they make? There’s the day you spend researching the opponent ahead. Who are their playmakers? What’s their coach’s style? How do they match up against teams most like mine? Maybe there’s even a day where you try not to think about it as much, allowing the rigors of everyday life to eat away at the time that’s keeping you from game day.
We often love college football for its unpredictability, but fans spend a lot of time during game week trying to make sure they’re not surprised come Saturday.
It may be overly romantic, but the beginning of a new season — for any sport, really — always makes sports seem a little more existentially important to me. I find myself reflecting on the core questions of sport. Why do I like this? What value does this bring to my life? Who am I enjoying this with? How did I come to care so much about a game? These are highly personal queries, so I won’t reflect too much on them here.
However, the older I get, the more I come to value the practices of being a sports fan. I used the word “ritualistic” above, and I didn’t do so lightly. Rituals make up the most mundane parts of our lives, meaning they end up being the most sacred, intimate parts of ourselves. We wake up, go through a carefully constructed morning routine (fine-tuned through years of trial-and-error), go to work, eat lunch at a preferred time, go back to work, go home, wrap ourselves up in whatever comforts we possess, and go to sleep, ready to do it all over again in eight hours. That may depress you — the idea that every day is the same and, in some fashion, quite rote — but I’ve found it gives me comfort.
Similarly, game week has come to be quite a sacred thing to me, almost as important to my enjoyment of college football as the game itself. Talking to fellow fans, reading/listening to/consuming every bit of content I can find, creating new and exciting things to publish on this here website... it all makes up an integral part of this most enjoyable process. And the more people involved, the more special it becomes.
So I’ve come to cherish college football game weeks as a fan, especially with those who share my passion for black and gold. There are so few of them per season, and it seems like we wait an eternity to get them back once they’re gone. But there’s comfort in knowing that every year game week will return, bringing with it the promise of a new routine — different than last year’s, but still familiar.