No Tailgating and No Friday Night Lights: We Miss the Boys of Fall

Please help me. I’m desperate.

What do people do on the weekends during the fall if they aren’t watching football? What does a typical Friday night or Saturday look like during September, October and November? What should I look forward to if it’s not the start of football season? I’m at a complete loss.

What will people do on the weekends this fall without football? (Twenty20 @mattbannister)

No tailgates, travel or Friday night lights

No tailgates? No travel? No Friday night lights? No Saturday night lights? No chants, no cheers, no superstitions?  No standing up for the kick-off and no high fives after every touchdown?  No team meals or family dinner Tuesdays?

No checking the weather on Monday to prepare for whatever climates we will sit in come the weekend. No spirit shirts, no team gear? Did I say no tailgates—it’s worth saying twice. How can that be? A weekend without chili, chip, and dip, pulled pork or chicken wings? Frankly, it’s unimaginable.

My husband is married to the game. And I’m married to him so that means by association, I’m married to the game as well. This is the first time in our 25-year marriage that we won’t have football during the fall. We are autumn virgins. We don’t know what a “normal” fall life looks like. In our house fall is just a shorter way to say football.

I don’t know what to do with myself without football

We won’t know what to talk about, plan for and look forward to. We won’t know what Thanksgiving Day looks like without a morning practice. Life without the pigskin makes us feel aimless, lost, and adrift– like a quarterback with no center, nachos without cheese or a ball without laces. A sucker punch!

People often ask me what I love about football? It’s simple: football is the ultimate team game. Everyone depends on the guy next to him to do their job—teams win together and they lose together. Football is about total commitment, being all in and dedication to something bigger than yourself. Football is mud, sweat, hard work, and sacrifice.

Football is about facing down your opponent and picking up your teammate. Football is about whatever it takes and leaving it all on the field. Football creates a life-long brotherhood with those you go to battle with. Football is a team that beats with one heart.

Football creates a family feeling

Football, like most sports, also creates a family feeling. It brings people together and offers us a common denominator. We connect with those we cheer with. We connect to those we pre- and post-game with.  We connect to those we sit in the cold, rain, or snow with.  We connect with our fellow fans who become family to us. We celebrate holidays, anniversary’s, and birthdays together.  We celebrate wins and share in the sorrow of losses. 

We develop a tribe, a group of friends or fellow fans who we look forward to seeing on game day, week in and week out. They help release the stresses of everyday life through laughter, through unity and through friendship-a social bond simply connected by team colors. Not to mention a few pre-game shots. Football gives us a reason to let go of a bad week and to have hope and excitement. Football connects generations and brings people together from all walks of life.

Tailgates are complex concepts—stuffing our faces with food and alcohol in anticipation of watching others exercise. And yet, they seem to offer a sense of home and comfort. We gather, we chat, we eat, and we bond. We circle those days on our calendars—like Christmas morning—and we prepare like it’s a sacred event. Everyone contributes, everyone is excited, and everyone is important…just like a team. 

We have great fun sitting on uncomfortable chairs, in dreary parking lots, eating on flimsy paper plates, because we are with our chosen family. It is the perfect excuse to get outdoors for a day without having to hike or break a sweat unless you are standing too close to the barbecue. Tailgating is special, a camaraderie, a form of brotherly love that lets people take care of one another. 

Tailgating is a family reunion

Tailgating is more than a picnic or a parking lot party, it is a family reunion.

So now we are left with empty calendars, unused pom-poms, folded up bleacher chairs and nothing to do on the weekends. We are left to find a way to entertain ourselves during the fall instead of having a built-in plan in place. It’s disappointing to players, coaches, families, schools, and communities.

It feels strange, different and leaves an empty hole that was once filled by a 100-yard field. We are lost, and we will miss the Boys of Fall. What on earth are we going to do with all this time?

I’ll try to take a glass full approach. There is so much we can do, so many opportunities we have never had. We can try new restaurants (take-out), go to weddings (all been postponed), travel (no chance) or hit a few concerts (shut down). We can go on bike rides, hikes or tend to a fall garden.  Who am I kidding? Garden schmarden.  Let’s be real.

We will spend more time together watching Remember the Titans, Rudy, or The Blind Side. We will rewatch Friday Night Lights starting with season 1 on Netflix. Who doesn’t want to root for Tim Riggins? We will scan for any games on and watch reruns on ESPN of old football games played years ago that are considered classics. We will watch 30 for 30, E60 and Sports Nation.

We will trash talk our friends who root for other teams, letting them know that we had a great team this year and we were ready to beat them. We will practice smoking a brisket or try a white bean chili out to see if it is worthy of making a future tailgating menu. We will learn to play Madden on the PS4 just to have something to cheer and yell about. We will talk about next season, what to look forward to, and what we will relish when the teams are back on the turf.

We will wait, respectfully and patiently, for our country to return on the other side of this pandemic.

One day sports will be back

One day sports will return, and the Boys of Fall will be back. For now, our love for the sport will take a back seat to our need to be healthy and safe. We will be strong, and we are resilient. We will adapt, but it will be lonely. We will eagerly await the sound of the whistle, the smell of the barbecues, the knock of the shoulder pads, and the roar of the crowd. When it returns, we will appreciate it more than ever.

Until then, I’m open to any and all suggestions for what to do in the fall. Someone, please, hit me up.

You Might Also Want to Read:

After a Spring Without Them, I Promise Never to Complain About Sports, Again

About Kelly Richardson

Kelly Richardson, "Thera-mom" is a Licensed Psychotherapist, mom of 3 and a blogger. She lives in Northern California with her husband who coaches college football, her two college aged sons who are back home due to Corona-virus, her high school daughter and her amazing black lab Sunshine. She loves watching any and all sports her kids play, traveling anywhere that has an ocean and hanging out with her tribe of women she calls her "trenchips."

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