I wrote about a conundrum I faced more than twenty years ago. As a young man, I collected college sweatshirts and I would wear them all the time. I never gave it much thought. I would wear a Cal sweatshirt, head out the door and go on with my day. But I was mistaken for a Cal student and I would eventually be asked "The Question".
"Oh wow! Do you go to Cal?" When I would sheepishly answer that I didn't and attended one of California's junior colleges, I would be met with the same response, "Oh."
One time at the gym as a young man wearing a Cal T shirt (I had a cousin graduate from Cal, I got the hookup on Cal gear) an older gentleman stuck out his hand, introduced himself as So and so class of '70. He asked me my graduating year, I told him I didn't go to Cal. He immediately turned around and walked away. (This was Natomas Racquet Club, you would have thought it was the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan.) It was then and there I decided to stop wearing all college gear. I was so embarrassed answering the question of where I went to school and feeling like I was less than acceptable person for not going to a big school.
Fast forward to 1999. A friend and I rented a house. A bachelor pad. (It was for him, not for me. Women still treated me like I had the plague!) I was watching some college football. I believe it was A couple of SEC schools. I was rooting for one of them. My friend asked, "What do you care about that team? You didn't go there." I sat there for a moment and pondered the question. Why did I care? I don't think I even set foot in the southern state the game took place. I couldn't answer the question, I didnt know the answer.
Let's jump a bit to 2004. I've always loved UCLA. I made the trek to see them at the Rose Bowl and I would go see them at Cal or Stanford. I has so much Bruins gear, you would have thought I was an alumnus or on the UCLA coaching staff. I saw them at Cal. I was sitting in the Cal section of the stadium. (What was I thinking, the whole stadium was the Cal section). I had on a UCLA sweatshirt and hat. With all the looks I was getting, you would have thought I was naked. I could just feel the looks. I was by myself. I was there to watch UCLA. No big deal. The UCLA band was playing the 8 clap cheer and I was clapping along........all by myself.........awkward. All around me everyone had reason to be there because they were students, alumni or parents of students. I was just a fan of a school I didn't go to.
What was my attachment to UCLA? When we would go on family vacations we would go to Corona in Southern California and visit family. My uncle Joe was a UCLA fan. I was about ten and I can remember him asking me who my favorite college football team was. I told him I didn't know. I probably didn't know what college football was. He said to me that if I wanted to be welcome in his house, I had to root for UCLA. He said it with a smile and a wink. But at that moment I became a UCLA fan.
I also remember a few years later as teens, my cousin Richard and I would sit in his room and talk about going to UCLA to play football. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I never tried out for football, but Richard did. I think he played for his junior high school 9th grade team, played in 10th grade. He experienced heartache as he didn't play his Jr year, the year Corona High won the CIF.
Anyways he played. We had dreams of playing football together for UCLA. Little did we know the academic requirements, others in the western US who wanted to play there and the biggest obstacle, the expense of tuition, room and board. (Richard as a parent is experiencing this. College is expensive and he has another boy in high school who's athletically gifted. Richard should just sign over his pay checks to that future school!)
Now I'm in my early forties. I'm not mistaken for a student anymore. I can wear any college gear I want now. But recently I got to thinking, why did I care so much about what people thought if I went to a specific college or not? I was just a fan. Does a redneck from Alabama who wears Alabama gear from head to toe care if people thought he went to Alabama? Probably not.
We root for pride. Pride for living in a certain state and we just start rooting for a certain college team. Sometimes you're born into rooting for a school or you marry into it.
I root for Notre Dame because I'm Catholic. I didn't embrace my Catholicism until my early 30's. Before hand I never gave cared about Notre Dame or the history behinds it football program. I actually hated the Fighting Irish. Cousin Richard loved them in the 80's. It gave us something to talk about.
Week one of college football just passed. I lost my favorite Notre Dame shirt a few years ago. I think I need to visit Fanatics.com.