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(I’m Still) Trying to Understand Football – A Cornell Homecoming Story

Remember The Titans, Friday Night Lights, and Varsity Blues are all things that come to my mind when I think of football. As someone deeply vested in pop culture, but not so much into sports, I still thought football and I would get along great! Fast forward a decade later, and I had just moved to the US from Pakistan. While I was excited to be here and eat lots of food, there was another part of me that was excited to be able watch football games live and be a part of that energy and loyalty to the school team that I had seen depicted so often in movies.

Homecoming came around, and I finally got my first opportunity. It was a big game too: Cornell vs. Yale. I was PUMPED. There we were in Schoellkopf field, full to its entirety with Cornellians – alums and students all ardently ready to support the Big Red. Walking in, the energy was palpable; “Cornell is so going to win,” I thought to myself. I was all decked out in red and white, foam finger in hand and ready to scream derisive comments, zinging academic puns, and clever insults at Yale. There was excited energy all around the stands and I was so ready to support Cornell.

Then the game started…and I had no idea what was happening. You see, all those times when I had been watching movies and TV shows about football, I had never actually understood the game itself. I had a vague idea that touchdowns were “good”, but beyond that, nothing much. It was really rather anticlimactic. I was super excited about the game except I didn’t actually know when to cheer for Cornell and when to boo Yale, which is kind of an important component when it comes to watching a sports game. Especially huge ones like Homecoming games…

But here’s the thing: yeah, it was super awkward when I cheered at moments I wasn’t supposed to (although I sort of got into the swing of things by halftime). But looking back, that Homecoming game was one of my funnest experiences while here at Cornell.

It was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by so much energy and devotion to Cornell, from both the team and the university itself. Everyone sitting in the stands was rooting for a common goal…or rather, a common touchdown (get it? Relevant sports word! Sorry, I couldn’t resist). I think that is where the appeal of sports lies: in the atmosphere it creates. You might not understand the game, but we’re all in it together and rooting for the same thing and that’s a pretty great experience in and of itself that is hard to find elsewhere.*

*However, I’d still recommend learning the rules because it makes watching a game much, much easier. Also, people won’t give you dirty looks when you accidentally cheer at the wrong moments. What’s a fourth down, again?

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