Last weekend marked the first games of the Big Ten football season. Anxiously awaited by some, largely ignored by most, the decision to start the season was hotly debated for weeks after the Big Ten officially canceled the season back in early August.
In October, after seeing other power five conferences continuing to play as scheduled, the Big Ten did a 180. Whether it was the money or the indirect peer pressure from losing big recruits to conferences maintaining their seasons, it’s not a huge surprise that the Big Ten decided to risk the health of their athletes after all.
Regardless of why they changed their minds, the fact remains: Big Ten football is back. While we can’t celebrate the decision at chilly fall tailgates or sing the fight song in the bleachers, we can curl up on the couch with our roommates and appreciate the return of a little normalcy in a time where life is anything but normal.
Football can be intimidating. It’s not just the fact that the rules are different between the NFL and college, but they’re also always changing. Not to mention, when you watch a game in person, it’s hard to even see what’s happening down on the field, unless you got really lucky with good student section tickets or your parents have a private box.
When I was in elementary school and just getting into college sports, I always preferred watching football on TV. From the comfort of my living room, I could watch the announcers draw out the plays with yellow lines on my screen and hear the whole explanation, without the stress of real-time analysis I’d have to understand if I was in the stadium. I love the slow-motion reels, where we can really appreciate a good play and watch it over again and again.
For people who have never been football fans, I encourage you to turn on a game this weekend. In a sport whose fans are mainly straight, white, college men, it can be hard to become interested in football because the environment you exist in feels exclusive and maybe doesn’t invite you. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Football in a pandemic means you can be clueless in the privacy of your bed—it is a learning process, like anything else. Take this opportunity to really explore the sport and see whether you truly don’t like it, or if you’ve just been trained not to over years of watching your brother, dad or friends in frats tie their masculinity to it.
Since before puberty, I’ve had to toe the line between ‘girly girl’ and ‘guys’ girl’ when it comes to being a sports fan. Many of my girl friends didn’t enjoy attending games or tuning in via ESPN, so I spent time with guys to fill that void. Guys can appreciate a girl who likes her sports, but often feel emasculated when it turns out that you actually know more than they do. That type of dynamic can turn into a common situation where a girl mentions something about a play that happened, and a guy immediately feels the need to quiz her on the coach’s resume just to prove that he is dominant in the realm of college sports.
So, what’s a girl to do?
Sports don’t belong to any gender. Being a fan doesn’t have to mean that you know everything about the sport — nor does it mean that you need to memorize the names of the athletic directors at every Big Ten school, regardless of what Chad from Delt tells you.
COVID-19 is giving people who aren’t as familiar with football a chance to dip a toe in without committing to a tailgate, a four-hour-long game in the freezing cold or obnoxious people who make sports their entire identity. So, this Halloween, flip on BTN and take it in—who knows when we’ll be able to enjoy football like this again?