It's the most wonderful time of the year for Inland Northwest football fans

College Football

click to enlarge PHOTO BY YOUNG KWAK
Photo by Young Kwak

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:

Venus in Fur @ Stage Left Theater

Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30-9:30 p.m. and Sundays, 2-4 p.m. Continues through Dec. 8
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About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine and The Oregonian. He grew up across the country in an Air Force family and studied at...