Writing about sports has, for the most part, drained the fan right out of me. Sports writers strive to be objective, to tell the truth, to see the game as it really is. True sports fans see their teams through the eyes of devotion. They moan about injustice. They don’t worry about telling the truth. They see the game as they want it to be, not as it really is.
I’ve been there. I’ve been a fan, but my profession has transformed me.
But not completely. A few small pockets of true fandom remain in my soul.
I remain a fan of Abilene Christian University football. It’s my alma mater and the alma mater of my wife, father, mother, brother and sister. It’s the alma mater of my uncles, aunts and cousins. My father-in-law served as a professor there, and my mother-in-law lives a long football throw from campus. My daughter is a junior there, and my oldest son will enroll in the fall.
On Saturday, ACU traveled to Chadron State, located in northwest Nebraska, for the second round of the NCAA Division II football playoffs. Chadron is the tournament’s No. 1 seed, and had allowed 78 points all season.
My brother, who played football for ACU, drove to the game from his home in Denver. I was in Chicago for the Bears and Broncos. He called with updates and for a long time the news was good.
ACU led 49-20 at the end of the third quarter, and it seemed a good time to celebrate our impending victory with a big dinner. The destination was Italian Village, a 1927 landmark restaurant in downtown Chicago. If you’re ever in Chicago and want an unpretentious, solid meal, the Village is a great spot. I had been waiting eight years to return to the Village. It’s one of my favorite restaurants.
I was walking to my table with the maitre’d when my brother called with an update.
“They tied us at 56 and it’s going to overtime,” he said.
Chadron had scored 36 points in the fourth quarter. Unbelievable.
I turned and hurried for the exit.
“Sir, what is wrong?” asked the polite, calm maitre’d.
“I’m not hungry anymore,” I said.
I was a fan again, riding the waves of joy and agony.
ACU lost in triple overtime.
And I still haven’t recovered.