Last Friday was spent with 60,000 of my closest friends. No, I wasn't out hitting the stores for the Black Friday sales. Instead, I spent the afternoon eating deep-fried turkey and chicken wings; homemade pepperoni rolls; buffalo chicken dip; and a whole table full of things I'm not eating any more as of yesterday. I drank beer and talked about things like offenses and defenses; records and rankings; coaches and players. I laughed and smiled and stressed out over important questions like: would our offensive line show and play well? And, oh my, what about our special teams? And, of course, could Coach Holgorsen be the first WVU Coach since 1903 to defeat Pitt in his first Backyard Brawl?
And then the game started. And it started ugly. And at one point all I could do, literally, was scream at the top of my lungs because of my frustration. I threw my hands up in the air in disgust, high-fived my new friends behind me in triumph, and covered my eyes every time we went out to receive a punt. I added cinnamon schnapps to my hot chocolate and wondered why we didn't bring more.
During half-time I sat with my arms crossed tightly and my lips sealed tight. I had nothing nice to say and decided it was best to keep my mouth shut. I always say that the stress of a WVU game is going to kill me and for a while Friday night as my knees felt week, my pulse pounded in my head, and my heart beat out of my chest I thought this was going to be the game that did it.
But our defense held the line. All. night. long. Stopping the Panthers each and every time, because it mattered most each. and. every. time. And as the game ended with the final score reading WVU 21 Pitt 20, and John Denver's 'Country Roads' started to play over the speakers at Mountaineer field, I linked arms with The Man and belted out Country Roads at the top of my lungs, complete with squeaks from raw vocal folds combined with tears, with those same 60,000 closest friends.
And it was in these moments that it hit me. That THIS, all of this, is why I need football in my life. I've always loved the game. My dad taught me the rules and the language from an early age. My best friends in high school were football players and other girls who loved the game as much as I did. And this is all important. But in the midst of the deepest heartache of our lives, football gives me the gift of 3 1/2 - 4 hours were I completely lose myself. I think of and worry about nothing related to me or The Man or the children we don't have. For these few hours it's not about me at all. Yes, I stress out like it is. Yes, if you were around me on game day you'd think I was actually playing IN the game. But when it comes down to it, whether the Mountaineers win or lose has nothing to do with me (but I will still continue to partake in all of my game day rituals, just in case).
This football season was hard for me to fall in love at first with because the start of it came the reminder of so many unrealized dreams and worries. But looking back, each weekend, for a few hours, I was given the gift of losing myself. I focused on the game and not the cute kids around us and felt like 'me.'
Football is my outlet. It is my release. It is where my brain finally shuts off and just lives 100% in the moment. Yes, it is much better for all involved when the Mountaineers win. But truly, win or lose, I love this game. I love this team. And now, I have a new love of and appreciation for the gift I am given every Saturday in the fall when I am freed from myself. It is in all of this that lies the answer to how I get through days like the ultrasound I described yesterday. And now, I understand it. I understand why I get upset and anxious when something threatens to interfere with my football watching.
Some people craft; others, like The Man, turn their music up real loud; others find this release in prayer; others find it in exercise; and still others in art. I find it in the game of football.