Iron Bowl

Finally home to watch the second half of the 2013 Iron Bowl. Was in a critique session for my first draft of a short story, bank deposit, quick shopping trip with daughter.

I’m feeling pretty good about my prediction of an Auburn upset at halftime. Alabama misses a field goal. I’m feeling confident in my pick. Auburn Tigers are the team of destiny.

Auburn punts to the Bama 1-yard line. Looking even better for Tigers now.

Wow, McCarron to Cooper for a 99-yard touchdown. Auburn turns it over on downs. Bama on top. Looks as hopeless for Auburn as last week against Georgia.

Still, Auburn defense holds twice. A third time. Blocked field goal! Tack on another Alabama penalty. Bama late substitution made Saban use a time out. I think Auburn will actually drive 60 yards for the tying touchdown.

Auburn in Crimson Tide territory. Run for a first down. Run for a first down. Play action pass for touchdown. 28-28. Omigod. Bama gets the ball with 25 seconds inside its own 30-yard line. McCarron drops back, but coverage blankets receivers. McCarron throws it out of bounds. Draw play close to first down, but short, so Bama calls time out. Third and one with seven seconds in regulation. Clever, they run the ball fifteen yards and almost get out of bounds to stop the clock and get one more play for a Hail Mary attempt.

Wait, official review of the clock. Might get the Hail Mary chance after all. Yes, one second put back on the clock.

Wait again – a 57-yard field goal attempt?

Looks really good, but fading. Short. Caught by a skill player, probably a safety, who goes toward the sideline, turns the corner, and he’s gone. Chris Davis, cornerback, from deep in his own end zone, for official 100-yard return. Auburn wins on the final play of regulation two games in a row. (Two weeks ago Auburn scored a touchdown on a tipped pass with no time left.)

I’m happy I got a prediction right, but I’m more happy anticipating the debate – how will the rankings shake out?

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USC-UCLA in the Rain – November 18, 2012

I like football best in real autumn elements. Sure, a glorious sunny day is great, but any weather is okay on the gridiron. Cold and wet, that’s football weather.

So for a change I anticipate my kind of weather at the Rose Bowl during the 82nd meeting of USC and UCLA. I also expect UCLA to compete for the first time in years. Both are talented, well-coached teams ranked in the Top 25. No blowout either way this time.

I’m wearing a western-style wide-brim wool hat, ski parka, and Doc Martens, sitting on my shoulder bag that holds my water bottle, game program, and sports section of the L.A. Times. Couples and families lay blankets on the aluminum bleachers, most red or blue with corresponding logo. Everyone’s dressed for what’s just beginning to fall out of the sky.

My cousin Bob and I are getting excited sitting in the cold wind during warm ups, spotting the coaches – a more challenging game since they don’t wear numbers.

Bob says, “I think Silas Redd is still hurt. I’m not sure how well the Trojans will run the ball.”

I shrug. “The Bruins give up a lot of yards. Key is how many points they allow.”

“I think the key is Brett Hundley. End of the year, he’s not really a freshman anymore.”

“He’s looked good. He’s got to manage the game. The turnovers will decide.”

Bob nods. “Hey, anything can happen in a rivalry game.”

Blue and red outfits pepper the stands, many couples sporting both. I’m surprised at the empty seats, but they fill up after the announced kickoff time. I guess many were tailgating while TV commentators recited their keys to the game. We prefer watching the teams run onto the field and warm up.

“Fight on!” rings out repeatedly, as do eight-claps. Two fingered salutes poke toward the Trojan Band in concert formation. The Bruin Band revs up the home crowd – for once the Bruins seem to have a home field advantage and this feels like a rivalry again.

The Trojans opt to receive. With the wind Jeff Locke drills the kickoff, Marquise Lee watching the ball soar past the end zone. Touchback.

Matt Barkley behind center, we all expect a running play, but Barkley takes a short drop, throws just past the line of scrimmage on the left – it’s picked off! Bruin fans roar with fists in the air, Trojan fans gasp with hands to cheeks or top of head, everyone’s jaw hanging down to the bleachers. We hardly believe it even as we watch the replay on the stadium screens.

Barkley threw between the slot receiver and the split end and the Bruin defenders outnumbered them. Good scouting, well-designed defensive call – I gotta say both, plus great execution.

A talented young secondary going against talented young receivers. Yes, the rivalry is back. Aaron Hester gets the best of Barkley and SC’s receivers on the very first play from scrimmage.

The Bruins cash in on Trojan turnovers, sprinting out to a 24-point lead. Unthinkable, even for UCLAn optimists. Bruins look dominant. Most impressive is their yardage running the ball with Jonathan Franklin’s multiple cuts and second and third efforts for first downs behind the young Bruin offensive line. Franklin dashes into the end zone. Brett Hundley also runs in for a score and is passing efficiently. UCLA 24, USC 0.

“No, no, no!” I shout. “It’s too much time to run off the clock.” Heavy rain bothers the Bruins end of the second quarter, but while they seem to go conservative, predictable, run-run-incompletion-punt two series in a row, USC keeps passing. Barkley seems in rhythm for the first time, UCLA mostly rushing three with no blitzes.

“The Bruins need more than 24 points,” I say to Bob. “Whoever wins is going to score more than thirty points, maybe more than forty.” Barkley tosses touchdowns to Lee and Telfer in the last five minutes of the half, coming most of the way back – UCLA 24, USC 14.

Bob goes for food late in halftime after the lines die down and misses the first possession of the second half. Bruins receive. Third down at the twenty-yard-line. In pouring rain the snap gets nowhere near Hundley in the shotgun set. Franklin picks up the bouncing ball but gets hit before he can tuck it. Hundley reaches for it but also gets hit, watching the ball squib past him into the end zone. Linebacker George Uko recovers for a Trojan touchdown – UCLA 24, USC 20. Nervous time for fans in blue; cardinal-clothed faithful get loud for the first time since the start of the game.

USC misses the extra point, the teams trade touchdowns, and USC makes a 2-point conversion to get within a field goal – UCLA 31, USC 28.

In the fourth Jonathan Franklin takes over. Like all great running backs he gets in rhythm as the game goes on, and as the defense tires he runs over, past, and around them. Franklin makes three cuts on a 29-yard touchdown run, staking UCLA to a ten-point lead that the defense cashes in.

Barkley has looked sharp on only two possessions. With Jeff Locke kicking through the end zone six times – with and against the wind – Marquise Lee got only one chance for a kick return after a UCLA penalty backed up Locke and put the kick into play. A good return but not a field flipper. Lee got loose for one touchdown in USC’s comeback, but he also fumbled a handoff he received in the tailback position. As the old saw goes, “You cannot hope to stop him.” The Bruin defenders have done a great job of containment.

Near the end, with just a wisp of a hope left, Barkley doesn’t sense impending doom rushing him from the backside. Converted H-back turned All-American linebacker Anthony Barr sacks Barkley, the full weight of both their bodies landing on Barkley’s shoulder – end of collegiate career. Get ready for Pro Day and the Combines.

Trojans go to 7-4 overall and a reduced impact date with The Irish in South Bend. Surprise, look who’s Number One now.

Bruins go to 9-3, Jim Mora tying Terry Donahue for most wins for a first-year UCLA head coach. UCLA clinches the championship of the Pac-12 South Division, next week’s final regular season game more important to Stanford and Oregon. Win or lose against The Tree on this same field Friday night, the Bruins will play the Pac-12 championship game on the road.

The Bruin players dash to the student section in the far corner opposite our seats. The UCLA Band plays on. The Trojan players trudge out of the stadium.

I am soaking wet, my black leather dress gloves bleeding dye that discolors my hands. Other than that I’m dry under my clothes. I’ll need to wear rain or ski gloves next time.

Bob and I watch the celebrations for a while, let the throngs exit the Rose Bowl, pick our way past the Trojan Band playing to grey concrete of an almost deserted section that had been clothed in red all game, find the serpentine line to board the shuttle buses to Parsons Engineering parking lot.

Hey, a glorious Saturday of football at the New Year’s Day site of the Granddaddy of Them All. An exciting game, a competitive game – eventually. Both teams came to play, it was the Bruins day.

The Victory Bell comes home for a coat of bright blue paint. Give me an eight-clap!

Sorry, Bob. Good luck against The Irish.

Bowl Victory Belongs to the Excited Team – Jan 2, 2013

We see this every bowl season – teams that are excited to be in a particular bowl play up to their capability while other teams play as if their venue is beneath them.

Stanford and Wisconsin were both pleased to be part of a traditional Big Ten versus Pac-12 matchup in The Granddaddy Of Them All, the Rose Bowl. For the first quarter and half of the second Florida seemed bored being in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, playing as if a non-championship BCS game against a Big East team would be a walk-through.

The result: a Rose Bowl classic and a Sugar Bowl first half that Florida would rather forget. Which is consistent, because the Gators certainly forgot to bring their “A” game for the kickoff.

A full and enthusiastic full house in Pasadena rooted on an old-school example of power football. Two teams that run behind tight ends and a fullback lead on offense, mixing in some play-action to keep the defense honest. Both defenses physical and aggressive, true to their character, played the run and read pass to pressure the quarterback and cover well.

Stanford executed flawlessly on the opening drive, running scripted plays all the way to the end zone. The Cardinal ran almost half the first quarter clock on that drive.

Stanford’s defense made a quick stop and got off the field. The offense marched down again, 14-0. Two touchdowns on two possessions to dominate the first quarter.

Wisconsin answered in the second quarter with balanced play calling and a tweaked defense. Stanford prevailed, but Wisconsin was in it until the end.

Thousands of Sugar Bowl seats went unpurchased by Florida fans. Louisville fans showed up in force. The teams reflect the unbalanced enthusiasm. Louisville DB in good coverage on the opening play of the game. Driskel’s pass off target, receiver gets fingertips on it, DB does the tip drill – pick six. Louisville gets a defensive stop, long march to second touchdown – 14-0.

This, however, is a different two-touchdown lead from the Rose Bowl. Florida is not being true to character. The Gators are getting stuffed on the run. They don’t convert on third downs. They don’t protect the pocket. Their defense gets burned.

The Gators get on the board with a field goal at the start of second quarter. They finally wake up at the end of the half to score a touchdown.

The Cardinals score on their first four possessions and hold a 24-10 halftime lead.

The only way Florida acts like the team that only lost one game all season? The Gators, most penalized team in the SEC, pick up eight penalties in the first half.

Second half I’m watching the same Sugar Bowl. Florida plays out of character from the kickoff, going for their first onside kick attempt of the entire season. I think ESPN’s Chris Spielman is right, it’s a sign of desperation.

Credit Louisville Head Coach Charlie Strong for having his “hands team” on the field. A receiver collected the onside kick and wrapped his body around it.

A Gator on the kickoff team commits two personal fouls and gets ejected from the game. Both fouls are enforced, putting the ball on the Gator 19-yardline. Terry Bridgewater immediately throws into the end zone – Louisville 30, Florida 10.

The entire third quarter Louisville moves the ball, Florida does not. Louisville squanders additional scoring opportunities, missing an extra point, two field goals, and gets no points after a goal-to-go opportunity. Louisville maintains a twenty-point lead by pressuring Driskel and sacking him. Florida does not have the receivers to stretch the field and when they are open Driskel holds the ball too long.

Finally, with 1:46 remaining in the third quarter, Florida makes a play. A D-lineman tips a Bridgewater pass and the defensive back alertly pushes the receiver out of the way – permitted after the tip, Spielman points out – and secures the interception. Starting this drive in Louisville territory, Florida runs the ball like Florida as the third quarter ends.

Switching to the other end of the field, Florida takes advantage of Lousville’s excellent pursuit with a reverse for a first down. The Gators follow up with a nicely developing screen pass. Two nice calls in a row – but Driskel fails again to get the ball out again, hit and almost sacked as he throws incomplete.

A couple runs get stuffed. Driskel passes again, too high – Louisville DB Andrew Johnson intercepts in the end zone and returns it to the 20-yardline.

12:48 left in the game, Bridgewater milking the clock. Another running play keeps the defense honest. Bridgewater completes a pass for a first down.

A couple plays later Bridgewater passes for another first down, then he hands off and for the first time in the game Louisville gains serious yardage on the ground. Nine yards on one carry, twenty-five on another – this last the longest run from scrimmage the Gators have allowed all season. Louisville marches deep enough for their kicker to make a thirty-yard field goal. Louisville up 33-10 with just 7:54 left on the clock.

Louisville native Muhammad Ali participated in the pregame coin toss. A Cardinals fan holds up a sign with a photo of Ali in the ring standing over Sonny Liston with the caption, “We shocked the world!”

Under eight minutes to go, wrapped up, right? Except Louisville has the worst Big East kickoff coverage. Florida runs back the kick for a touchdown. 33-17.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp gambles again with an onside kick because Florida hasn’t stopped Louisville yet. Kick goes out of bounds, plus five yards for another Florida penalty (off sides).

Gators finally get a stop, but Louisville downs their first punt of the night (!) on the Florida 3-yardline. DE Preston Brown almost sacks Driskel again, almost intercepted.

Gillesley rushes to the 20-yardline, a 17-yard gain. Driskel hits a pass for another first down, another short pass, 4:30 left and counting. Driskel scrambles but gets tackled short. On third down he converts on another pass. Time stops for an injury, but there’s only 3:46 left and Florida is sixteen points down.

A couple incompletions, a big gain to the Louisville 2-yardline, a loss to the 5-yardline and time run off the clock, then a nice tight end delay for a touchdown pass. Florida is still alive.

Until Louisville sacks Driskel on the 2-point conversion attempt. Louisville grabs the onside kick with a minute and a half left and a ten-point lead. Louisville actually makes yardage and gets a first down, takes a couple knees, and celebrates a 33-23 win – Sugar Bowl champions.

Louisville head coach Charlie Strong turned down offers from Tennessee and other programs that were hiring. Teddy Bridgewater says after the game, “I thought Coach Strong was gone, him staying shows the loyalty he has to these players.” After the championship trophy goes to Charlie Strong, Bridgewater receives the Sugar Bowl Most Outstanding Player trophy.

Louisville has spent a lot in facilities upgrades and will move the ACC. In Coach Strong’s third year the future looks bright.

Florida, two-touchdown favorites, will hurt for a while, but with a top recruiting class the Gators might actually be better next year.

My Pet Peeve In Sports Reporting

My pet peeve in sports reporting cropped up most often several years ago at the Los Angeles Times, formerly one of my favorite sports news sources. I suspect it had something to do with the Tribune Corporation acquisition, but then I wasn’t on the inside. I was a customer, a subscriber. Anyway, I saw a trend – which I saw as an epidemic – of a bad story format.

Even casual readers of newspapers, eZines, and blogs know – at least subconsciously – to expect a hook, a headline, the why-should-I-read-this opening that gives us the punch line, the climax, the point. If it were fiction or TV drama it would be a spoiler. We want to know the result up front and then settle in and read the rest of the article – or as much as we have time for – to get the rest of the story.

So several years ago I read a lot of game summaries that irritated me to no end. The first paragraph summarized the climax and the next several paragraphs unfolded the full drama and denouement. So far so good, but the next section would jump back a bit, play out the previous part of the game, jump back again and play out another bit, jump again, and again, and so on.

The baseball summaries done in this fashion were the worst. If the drama was in the ninth inning, for instance, after the nice climax story came the setup in the seventh and eighth innings, then the fifth and sixth innings, then the third and fourth, and finally the first and second. Talk about anticlimactic. Just like a movie with too many flashbacks, a game summary like this takes the reader out of the story.

The reason we watch sports is to watch the development of the game. What happens early influences what coaches and players do late. A pitcher uses more breaking balls the second and third times through the order. A manager intentionally walks a guy who’s three-for-three in the game. An offensive coordinator abandons the run behind by two touchdowns. It’s the story of the game that should be the story of the article.

If the early stages didn’t factor in the victory, don’t bother going back and detailing every indecisive inning or possession. (That’s covered by box scores and drive charts.) Just leave it out, or better yet, summarize how it all brought the game to the climax. And please take us there from the beginning, even if you zoom through it.

Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers Are the Biggest Baseball Story of the Year

Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers are the biggest baseball story of the year. Except, maybe, if you’re a Yankees fan. Or a Brewers fan. Or…

The underachieving men in blue were truly pathetic after the first two months of the season. Then they got healthy. They got in sync. And most of all, they got Puig.

Yasiel Puig is a rare combination of multifaceted talent and charisma. He reminds me of some special prospects of decades past.

I remember seeing Pedro Guerrero deployed in right field in Dodger Stadium in his September call up prior to his rookie season. Just the way he stood, moved to shag fly balls, the effortless speed. I could tell he was enjoying himself. He had fun. He loved the game of baseball. He had that special something. He had “It.”

Dwight Gooden. “Doc” had a blistering fastball. But he had presence, too, like Bob Gibson. I mean, nobody is like Bob Gibson, but Doc was special.

Puig has something indefinable. Like Fernando, like Maury Wills. He has the potential to be a dominant heart-of-the-order hitter like Paul Goldschmidt or Buster Posey. I see him more as a Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval in blue. A dangerous streaky hitter for average and power, a potentially great defender. With more speed and power than Panda.

We’ve already seen potential problems, just as we saw problems for each of the players named above. Puig is just a rookie, so we’ll see more stuff come up. He seems to be doing fine. Don Mattingly thinks so too, and Donnie Baseball has a good baseball mind.

Mattingly also has the players. Even if they all just play average – for what they’ve done in their careers – the Dodgers are looking at several coming seasons of success. All their stars except Adrian Gonzales have had personal issues, but winning often makes those go away. Next to these guys, Puig is just a teddy bear.

Intrigue in MLB Western Divisions

West Coast baseball is full of intrigue this year. Probably the biggest story is the bust of the two SoCal spending sprees. However, my favorite story is the three-team race – and as of May 22nd, the three-way tie for first – in the National League West between the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Giants.

Most pundits picked the Dodgers to dominate the NL West, with the Giants in their wake. A few thought – correctly – that the D-backs would be improved after delighting both B.J. Upton and the Braves by sending off arguably their best player. Turns out Arizona’s sound rotation is backed up by a dangerous lineup featuring the ever-improving power threat at first base, Paul Goldschmidt.

Goldie has power to all fields, a quick compact swing that’s easy to maintain. He has this in common with Buster Posey. Neither goes into an extended slump.

Goldschmidt also has made himself into a good fielder, progress that was far from predestined.

While noting Colorado’s improvements last year, few observers expected the Rockies to contend this year. After all, who could predict this to be the break out year for Dexter Fowler, the perennial five-tool prospect. Though his batting average remains low, when he connects he produces the long ball. Hard to pitch around both Dex and Tulo.

In the field Fowler is a solid centerfielder. He’s got to be considered for the All-Star team this year. Married life agrees with this young star.

The Angels in fourth place in the AL West and the Dodgers in fifth place in the NL West both have expensive seasons with little to cheer about. The Rangers might have already buried the .400 Angels, as the Texas pitching staff seems too good to allow an epic collapse.

The Dodgers are just as bad, but are optimistic that Zack Greinke’s return can spark the team. With potentially the best pitching staff and best lineup in baseball, the men in blue are falling down in all areas. Though they are closer to first place than the Angels, they are looking up at three strong teams at the top. Those teams have been beating each other up instead of one or two running away from L.A., but then why worry about a team that can’t yet catch the Padres?

Meanwhile, the annual Dodger Blue nightmare plays out in an unexpected way: while mired in the cellar, the Dodgers see their Halloween-clad rivals share first place despite a sky-high rotation ERA and an uncharacteristically error-prone defense. Even Giants faithful must be shocked that the Giants have driven in the third most runs in the league. This despite nagging injuries and illness in the G-men’s lineup.

I’m enjoying the spirited competition in the NL West, which I see going all the way to the wire. Meanwhile, I’m making no call as to which L.A. team comes around before it’s too late. If either.

Football’s Purpose

In real life I avoid conflict and competition. Yet I have competed in many sports, and as a spectator I watch all sorts of games and matches, even boxing and mixed martial arts. Football too is a violent and brutal sport.
I’m not a football player like most of my cousins. I am a huge fan. This Saturday I spent most of the day and night flipping channels between various college games, looking for the most competitive.
I did not play football on my high school’s team. Not even the Lightweight Team, because my asthma cleared up the first month of my senior year, too late to go out for the team. Through the autumn on Friday nights I spotted for a fellow student who announced home games over the PA system. I joined the wrestling team in the winter season.
I played touch football games in the park with friends. We didn’t block very hard – mostly it was a strategic passing game of cleverly designed plays and occasional completed passes. We were our own clumsy chess pieces.
I once played an informal game of touch on the senior lawn with friends. My best friend, Steve Ruttschow, at 5’7” 160 pounds an undersized but fierce two-way player (guard and nose tackle) on our high school team, apparently could only play all-out, so he bulled through the other kids of both genders. We let him. On defense he eagerly tackled whoever carried the ball, all the way to the ground. We had no choice in that, except to end the game somewhat early.
I played in an eleven-on-eleven tackle pickup game in the summer after graduation, with no equipment. (Not even a mouthpiece or a cup.) Midgame I pursued a ball carrier downfield. An opponent threw his body into a low block. Instinctively I bumped my hands on his shoulders to prevent his forearms from taking out my knees. I went home with a sprained wrist.
I got a phone call inviting me to the next game, but I quit while I was ahead – ahead of further injury.
I did play organized football as a junior in college: flag football at the club level. The heaviest I weighed in my twenties was about 135 pounds.
I avidly followed football at all levels as a spectator. My mom was the football fan in our family. She really understood the game, commenting while we watched on TV. She rooted for the 49ers into her nineties.
My wife never understood my mom’s interest in sports. I just took it for granted. Mom played field hockey in high school in the 1930s. (Mom was a verbal disciplinarian, never spanked me or my brother; yet I remember finding my mental image of her running around a field swinging a stick a bit frightening.) I’m sure Mom’s love of sports was a factor in my becoming a fan of women’s sports.
I’m a big fan of Title IX. I welcomed passage of the law at the time as a victory for fairness. Over the decades since I felt Title IX powerfully empowered women in the workplace with lessons imparted by sports.
Competitive athletes learn personal responsibility, social responsibility (to their team, school, and community), cooperation (teamwork and mutual support), perseverance, overcoming adversity (coping with and learning from failure), and leadership.
Leadership is not just being the captain. Leadership is being a teammate: both a good leader and a good follower, sometimes at the same time, working together. Powering the pack rather than leading or trailing a flock.
My dad played and was a fan of baseball, bowling, and golf. I played catch with him a few precious times (he worked a lot). For some reason Dad always played with a first baseman’s mitt. I sort of remember one time throwing a football with him.
So I grew up without the paternal expectations James Wright references in his poem “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio.” I didn’t have the golden hero experience of running out of the tunnel onto a green gridiron to a small cheering crowd. My parents never saw me wrestle, so I didn’t get it there either.
Now that I think about it, I wonder why I never thought to invite them to a home meet; maybe because my teammates didn’t invite anyone either. We wrestled in obscurity at schools not known for the sport. We enjoyed the one-on-one challenge; we didn’t need an audience.
Back to football. For several decades I have watched on television as oversized young men hurl their lightly armored bodies at each other. Until I got married I watched with other men and cheered and hooted vociferously. Now I watch almost silently, as any loud sound I make upsets the women in my family. They only cheer at gymnastics meets. Although my daughter is an athlete, she is not a fan.
Watching silently has become such a habit that I don’t even cheer when I’m the only one in the house. Well, the only human anyway. The cats and the dog don’t object to any of my sounds. They make enough of their own. Come to think of it, their sounds also upset the women in my family.
Football doesn’t really do much for our pets, and it certainly doesn’t entertain my wife and daughter. Annoys them, actually. Just the sound of it. (They don’t like crowds, so a roaring crowd they really don’t like.)
For me though, it fulfills some physical, emotional need. Perhaps even a primal need. Maybe in the limbic system, that reptilian core of my brain that handles raw emotion, the most basic endocrine chemistry and physical awareness of my being.
I enjoy being part of an excited, focused, involved crowd. We sway and stomp and gasp and scream in unison, or more precisely in waves. We begin to rise up before the crest reaches us, and begin to sit down before the trough.
And no, I’m not talking about The Wave, that fan-initiated and fan-generated audience participation stunt that has as little to do with the game as a beach ball tossed onto the field that interrupts play. Neither am I talking about the physical waves of sound traveling through the air, the ground, the walkways and the seats of the stadium.
I’m talking about a metaphorical wave: a wave traveling through time rather than space, a sort of music not charted on staves with notes and measures. I’m talking about a crescendo of sound, physicality, and emotion. I’m talking about the group experience of enthusiasm, excitement, exhilaration, disappointment, dejection, relief, and elation. I’m talking about self and group encouragement, exhortation, naysaying and booing, affirmation and cheering.
Maybe it’s not so silly to identify with one team over the other, to wear its colors and chant its cheers. Maybe there is value in joining a pack and running and jumping and baying in a chorus. It helps my body, mind, and spirit come alive. It helps me be more of who I am.