A Practical Guide to NFL Fandom

But what is football, really? One big theater of dreams, and it’s these moments, prior to the kick-off, that loom the largest, when all the fan’s dreams are still alive and intact. The Panthers, the Titans, the Vikings, the Rams…every one of them dreaming of a ring just like the Patriots, the Steelers, the Cowboys. It is beautiful. The party is still alive. Everyone has arrived. The table is set. No one has been forced to go home yet, and that first melancholic sense of decay—the withering of the first flowers—and of the end being close, the reality of loss, of defeat, has yet to set in…

Unless, of course, you are a Browns fan—then go home. Your team sucks.

So the NFL is cool (unless you’re a Browns fan), and being an NFL fan is cool, but be forewarned, and by forewarned, I mean harken up there avid fans, because being a cool NFL fan is tricky.

Overreact to everything as quickly as possible. Deshaun Watson throws four touchdowns? Greatest rookie of all time. Easy. Tell Tom Brady to move over on the all-time greats, cause gee dang it this man can sling it. When the Broncos named Trevor Siemian the starting quarterback in the preseason, yeah, that man is the Sheriff 2.0. Just like Peyton, I agree. So the man can’t quite do what Peyton Manning did, but that doesn’t change the fact that this man is definitely a cool-handed starter in this league. He might not throw for nearly 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns like Peyton did in his rookie year, or win multiple Super Bowls, or… you know what? I did see the five turnovers in their Monday Night Game against the Chiefs. Yuck. Broncos should definitely bench him.

And you know what else? If you ever want to be a good NFL fan, you have to root for the right teams. There’s this whole thing about sports, maybe you’ve heard it, about all it’s powerful representation of geography and national character, and that believing in your home town, regional team is like attaching and extending yourself into all the people around you. Like you can bond and come together over the beauty of human art in action, the mechanic, undaunted march of the Patriots or the creativity and inventiveness and pure, child-like magic of Aaron Rodgers and his Packers that stands to represent Green Bay, Wisconsin, a symbol of identity for Wisconsin and all her beautiful people. And curds. Yeah, all that is silly. The main aim is to win – and if you want to win, you have to pick the right teams.

Bandwagon, fair-weather fan…derogatory, I say. There is nothing quite like being the best fan of the best team. Why would someone ever tie themselves down to one lousy, geographic, nationalistically, loyalty based teams? Because what is loyalty good for if you know those teams lose, like, at least several times a year? It’s worth nothing. Zip, nada. Zero. Because the only thing that’s good is winning, and because if you want to be a real fan, you can’t afford to lose, so pick the winners. Think about it like this: one team gets to win a Super Bowl every year. Why would you want to be a fan of any other team but that one? How are you going to tell your friends how much of a winner you are if your team isn’t the last one left at the table in February? Because then you’ll be all like, “woot woot,” and your friends will all be like, “gee whiz,” you really were right all along, and you were the best fan of the best team, and you are by far the coolest one we know, and you are a real winner and we are not. Isn’t that the best? So hey, the Eagles are 7-1, the Chiefs have the number one offense in the league and front-runner MVP Alex Smith and the Patriots, are, well, they win a lot. But not the Browns, so whatever you do, disregard that football wasteland.

Actually, you know what, now that I’m on it, be a Browns fan too. No, seriously. Think about it…why root for any other team ever? All the teams lose, always, every year. So no matter what you do and what team you choose you are going to be a loser. It’s just who you are, and, sorry buddy, if you want to be a real NFL fan, there’s no escaping it. Why sit around and wait, hoping, wondering about whether or not your team might win, just to suffer the sad disappointment of them losing when you thought they would win? Ick. No thanks. Your friends definitely won’t think you’re very cool then. I wouldn’t, either. Why ever sit and wait in suspension, when the world is a intricate web of passing time, and the possibilities are limitless, and the lifelong fascination and pleasure that comes with sitting in front of the TV, sparked alive by the feeling of hope that your team might win and you were along the whole time? Boring. You know what is cool? Consistency , draft picks and new stuff—and the Browns have got it all. You might not be number one in February, but you certainly get to be number one in April when the NFL has it’s draft, and, hey, by that time the Super Bowl is a distant memory and really not that cool anymore and all that matters is being number one in the draft, and, by golly, the Browns will get you there. Not to mention new quarterbacks every week, like Christmas every Sunday. And, not to mention, someday the Browns will be good. Right? They have to be…if the Cubs can win a World Series, Bruce Jenner can become a woman and Donald Trump can become president, then by gawd the Browns can one day be good… and what a story that will be to tell the kids. So there you have it, hop on. Come join the Factory of Sadness, it’s really not as bad as it sounds. Really, like, it’s not…

Actually, disregard everything just mentioned. Continue to bandwagon. Those Eagles are hot right now. Remember when you were an Eagles fan? Me too, I’ve loved Carson Wentz since college. Always knew he’d pan out, I believed it from the minute he left NDSU. Check my Twitter account. Wait, you didn’t find the tweet about Carson Wentz? Try Facebook. I know I said it there too…

Okay, so maybe I didn’t post anything about Wentz, but I thought it! I know I did. I basically would have taken him in my fantasy draft if I hadn’t gone to the bathroom during my pick and accidentally auto-drafted Eli Manning. Swear to gawd, it was an accident. The computer, and by computer, I definitely mean the auto-draft, pretty much banking on the idea that the Giants would repeat as NFC East champs behind a loaded receiver core, and therefore, a pretty neat-o Eli Manning…but I digress. Go Eagles. Carson Wentz… G.O.A.T.

So, basically, it’ simple. Football is opium for the people and, if you want to be a good fan, partake with us. It is an anesthetic, an escape, fiction, but also the opposite. Football creates contact; being a fan means talking about it with anyone and everyone. It is a frame of reference that family, friends and strangers can bond over. So go, bond. What you’ll find is that the game in itself is, perhaps, meaningless when it comes down to it. As fans we’re all just over-zealous sheep who toss around pigskins and overuse GOATS to pass the time, but what you get from that is joy, excitement, fascination and togetherness, and that is good.