It’s 2001. I’m a freshman in a large public high school, sitting on the bleachers with the other nerds on a Friday evening as two groups of boys in heavy padding scurry across the turf. I am the only one in my group actually watching the game. I don’t know anyone on the football team, or the cheerleading squad, and I never will. I’m more likely to be hit in the head with a basketball than shoot a basket. I can’t serve. I can’t even bowl. I’m a mad-at-the-world English nerd. I’m Hot Topic lite. I’m lowkey emo. I write ghost stories. The only thing I’m going to letter in is academics. I have no school spirit and I’m not a local. And yet for some reason I care whether “we” win or lose.
It was no great surprise that living in Nebraska, I’d become a football fan. In this state, Saturdays are synonymous with the color red, and since my first game in Memorial Stadium in 1998, I’d been transfixed by the way the crowd’s collective energy hovered above the playing field like an oppressive psychic force, our individual yells making up an insurmountable eternal scream. It was terrifying. And it was the only time I ever felt like I truly belonged. But in caring about something so popular, so trivial, wasn’t I betraying my outsider soul? What kind of self-respecting sensitive pseudo-goth gave a shit about jocks beating each other up for points?