Southern Gentleman

Football Schmutball, I Came for Beer!

By Jason Frye

What’s the best way to deal with an obnoxious football fan? Possibly just finding the dip and chips.

It’s back: football season. I have to admit I’m already exhausted by it.
Not the hits, not ESPN Game Day, not the wall-to-wall-every-hour-of-Saturday-and-Sundayness of it. Not even the car flags or the bandwagon fans or the haters or your great-grandmama who has cheered for the same team since the forward pass was invented. In fact, I love your grandmama even if she has a cow bell (in two colors: home and away) that she rings like the dickens from her recliner for the duration of the game.
No, none of these exhausts me, but what does is Superfan Steve.
Superfan Steve doesn’t get it: no one is as into, as passionate about, or as willing to discuss championship contention one minute after kickoff on the first game of the season as Steve. No one knows every roster down to the walk on, fourth string tight end/punter who was a rock star forward on his prep school junior varsity soccer club as Steve.
And no one cares.
Superfan Steve TALKS IN ALL CAPS because “FOOTBALL IS MY PASSION,” and he wants everyone within a three-house radius to know it.
When I met Steve, I liked him. He’s gregarious, funny, can talk about a lot of things, but then one Saturday afternoon in the fall a few years ago, I met Superfan Steve and that guy is the worst. He ruined college football for me.
College football and me, our relationship started in West Virginia where, at the time, you were either a WVU fan or nothing. Unless you were my uncle Dave, a Marshall University alumnus who knew the team lost in the 1970 plane crash. He went to games, took our Boy Scout troop to watch the Thundering Herd play, and cheered for them even when they were at their worst.
As for me, I went to Marshall during peak football – undefeated seasons and regular mentions on ESPN. Friends like Randy Moss, Chad Pennington, Doug Baldwin, John Wade and Jason Starkey went on to illustrious, even Hall of Fame careers. Naturally I followed Marshall after I graduated, but with time and distance, the fandom faded. What emerged was a fandom of the sport. I like football, but unlike Superfan Steve, it’s not an all-consuming love.
On Saturdays in the fall, most of our friends can’t resist the pull of one garage or another, and by mid-afternoon five or six guys are there drinking beer and cooking things on various grills, trying to watch our language as a pack of children dash from the house through the garage to the yard and back again and again. Superfan Steve, he’s right in the middle of everything, commenting as if he’s a play-by-play broadcaster.
“THE QB’S RUNNING RIGHT! HE’S RUNNING RIGHT! GET HIM! OH, HE PITCHED IT OUT TO THE BACK! HE’S OFF TO THE RACES AND THAT’S HOW YOU CALL A BOOTLEG!
As if we all aren’t watching the same television.
DID YOU SEE THAT?! – that’s how he talks, in all caps and with two punctuation marks – DID! YOU! SEE! THAT!?!
We did.

And then he high fives everyone. Everyone. Any kids running through, anyone sitting near him at the little bar in our buddy’s garage, anyone at the card table behind. He even makes a lap out to the driveway to high five the grillers and the cigarette smokers and tell them – IN ALL CAPS – how awesome that play just was.
Last fall, Superfan Steve and I found ourselves alone in the garage. I was nursing a beer and praying that he’d be like a good airplane seatmate and ignore me, but it was not to be.
WHO DO YOU THINK WILL WIN IT ALL THIS YEAR? ALABAMA? GEORGIA? OLE MISS? AUBURN? CLEMSON? LSU?
It was the first week of September, far too early to predict anything. “I don’t know,” I said and turned back to my beer.
BUT YOU GOT AN OPINION, RIGHT?
“I do not.”
A moment of blessed silence.
I THINK THAT RUNNING BACK, SCRAPPY BOJANGLESON, IS WINNING THE HEISMAN, DON’T YOU? I MEAN, THAT GUY…
“Beats me, man, I don’t even know who that guy is or who he plays for and I couldn’t tell you who won the Heisman last year.”
Silence, again, and we sipped our beer.
“I’m going inside for dip,” I said.
And that’s what I do. When the superfandom becomes too much, when the football talk devolves into which Heisman runner up from Alabama should’ve won but he didn’t because of the voting committee’s loyalty to Auburn or LSU or whatever state university, I go inside. Where the wives are. Where the food is better. Where the kids are being hilarious and where no one is yelling at me about the play I just watched.
“What’s going on out there, Jason?” one of the wives asks.
Before I can say Superfan Steve, we hear DID YOU SEE THAT!? THAT’S THE GREATEST CATCH IN THE HISTORY OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL RIGHT THERE!!!
And I don’t have to say a word.

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