Sunday, September 7, 2008

SEC Football Game

I went to a football game yesterday. The dojo finally had
some spare tickets from the ticket pool; undergraduates all get free
tickets and can give their tickets to a club so the whole club goes to
the game together.

They were playing The Citadel. It was the traditional 'Invite a weak
team so we can smash them' start of the season. I was secretly
rooting for Citadel, because of their underdog status and the fact
that they are a military school. (And also the fact that I sometimes
like being contrary.) The final score was our team 45, Citadel 17, but
Citadel did really well in the first quarter. It took us most of
the game to fully adjust to the way that Citadel was playing; it
seemed to me that we were being outmaneuvered and our first touchdowns
were due to luck or brute force.

The halftime show was all about military stuff. They had the military
bands, and they honored fallen soldiers and a Medal of Honor winner
from WW2. It was the best part of the game, in my opinion.

After the game, lots of people went to the field and started throwing
footballs around. I went down, and started looking up at the stands,
in order to try to imagine what the players must feel like when they

I'm glad I finally went to a game, but I have no desire to do it
again. It is an odd sensation to be surrounded by people who care
deeply about something, when you have zero emotional involvement in
that thing. I experience this a lot, but it never gets easier. I was
not expecting to be excited by the game or "the most exciting 25
seconds in college football" (When the team runs down the hill onto
the field) or anything else, but the whole thing really seemed to be
boring and juvenile. It was, to my mind, exactly like a high school
football game writ large.

Random Observations:

I had to throw away my water bottle at the gate, presumably for
alcohol control. During the game, several people were pouring things
from hip flasks or tiny vodka bottles into their concession stand

After the game, each goal post was guarded by over half a dozen armed
Pickens County police officers.

The tailgaters must have thrown away enough food to feed a dozen third
world villages for a week.

The emotional power of a rifle stuck bayonet-first into the turf with
a helmet on top of it is amazing, especially with 'Taps' playing. I
was almost choked up.

In the fourth quarter, when we were clearly going to win, The Citadel
made a rather impressive touchdown play. I clapped for them and got a
lot of dirty looks from my friends. I tried explaining that our
victory was assured, we lost nothing from the score, and I was simply
admiring their skill. But the consensus was "Any point they score is
bad. We want to crush them."

There were an incredibly large number of chants, rituals, etc. that
everyone seemed to know. A touchdown, or being on defense, or a punt
all seemed to trigger some automatic group response. Watching 60,000
people wave their fists in the air and chant something will always
have a bad connotation in my mind. Being in the middle of it, even
when it is your friends, is worse. It sends a message of "You are a
stranger and do not belong here" straight to my limbic system.

I really, really dislike it when large numbers of people start
grabbing each others' shoulders and swaying. I cannot explain why,
but it seems very wrong and alien, even worse than the normal sports

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