I blame the Catholic Church for my obsession with college football.
I was a wee lad when it started, living in a town called Knob Noster, Missouri, back when my family hadn't yet splurged on a color TV, let alone cable that would get us more than three channels to watch. One of those channels inexplicably ran reruns of Notre Dame football games every Sunday morning, and as an Irish-Catholic schoolboy, I was required to watch under penalty of excommunication.
An early move to Nebraska meant indoctrination into a new religion, that of Cornhusker football. I was still an altar boy on Sundays, but cheering for Notre Dame was history now that I'd found a team that everyone in the state — no matter what religion, ethnicity or social status — could root for together. Related: There's not a lot to do in Nebraska.
Later came a high school move west, and I eventually attended the University of Utah and my fandom reached a new level. Unlike Nebraska, tickets to watch games in person were readily available. I started attending as a student, and when I returned to Salt Lake City later for a job, I bought season tickets. For more than a decade, I spent several Saturdays each fall cooking large animals and drinking cheap beer until kickoff.
Those were good times I still try to revisit at least once a year, with a little less meat and better beer. The community one finds around football fandom is something even non-football folks can understand. Nerding out with friends over anything — music, anime, politics, your sportsball of choice — generally beats nerding out alone (all due respect to introverts and socially anxious Inlander readers).
Football fandom has gotten a lot more complicated as I've aged thanks to the knowledge we now have about the damage players are doing to their brains. And big-time football is clearly a financial boon to institutions allegedly designed for higher education, with profits built on the backs of unpaid athletes with professional dreams only a miniscule few will ever achieve. And yet... and yet...
I can't resist planting myself in front of the TV as soon as college football season starts. It's an addiction I'll readily cop to, and in the next few pages you'll meet some of the Inland Northwest's superfans who share an obsession with the game. Some found football through their families, others through attending a new school or meeting a significant other. But they all find themselves spending their autumns enthralled by the action on the fields in Cheney, Moscow, Pullman and Spokane. After reading their stories, you just might want to join them at their next tailgate party. ♦In this year's College Football Guide:
- Linfield grad Kristine Johnson fell in love with a coach and found herself a Whitworth fan
- For third-generation Eag Kelsey Hatch-Brecek, EWU football might be her "favorite thing on the planet"
- Spokane singer-songwriter Matt Mitchell has been a Coug fan since he was a little kid
- Idaho fan Marten Hiemstra is anxious to see how the Vandals react to a rough first year back in the Big Sky