A year ago the only thing I knew about football was that Tom Brady played for the Patriots, until he didn’t. That one was courtesy of one of my best friends, the world’s biggest Brady fan. When I stepped into my role as deputy sports editor last fall — and maybe one day I’ll stop telling this story — I had to Google “what is a punt?” while fact checking on-deadline articles in the press box.
Now, I’m the head sports editor — and at the Super Bowl.
I had a lot of expectations about football when I started watching it, but what I didn’t expect was just how all-consuming it was. And I definitely didn’t expect to end up here (at this current moment, “here” is in the Phoenix Convention Center media workroom).
My arduous football journey began with learning all the intricacies of Cal’s own roster: Who’s who, where are they from and what do they do? That swiftly led me to dedicate my winter break to tracking transfers and commitments that ensued from the opening of the transfer portal and early national signing day. And, of course, I can’t forget the winter bowl games — discovering the Cheez-It Bowl and Prince Cheddward was truly my December highlight.
From Cal football, it was an easy leap to watching the NFL (three times a week, which, I must say, is more akin to a part-time job!). Despite my top-two teams, the 49ers and the Bengals, not making it to the Super Bowl, I’m still the most thrilled anyone could ever be about being in Arizona.
In a previous piece, I wrote “I’ve taken every step possible, lest dropping out of college and working on becoming a full-time football connoisseur, to fully immerse myself in football to understand it.” And now that I’ve graduated, I can officially spend all my time scrolling through “Cal football Twitter.”
I would be lying just a bit if I said that I didn’t want to learn about the sport to be able to join in on conversations. I wasn’t raised in the U.S., so I often struggled to make small talk when so often the small talk involved words that were alien to me: drafts, touchdowns, linemen, receivers and quarterbacks.
I never could have imagined, though, that this small talk would help me in talking to actual NFL players. At the teams’ media availability in the week leading up to the game, reporters had the chance to come up to players on the roster — quite literally, sit next to them at a table in a hotel conference room — and ask them anything they wanted.
A free-for-all (with terms and conditions attached) with half of the roster! What a better time to get to show off all my newfound knowledge?
If you had told me (or any of my friends, for that matter) six months ago that I would be talking to the Eagles about Super Bowl ads, the Pac-12 and Philly sports culture, the laughter would have echoed the whole way from Berkeley to Phoenix.
So, what’s so enthralling about football? Frankly, I’m not sure.
It’s feeling like I’m part of a team, a culture. It’s having something to look forward to every week. It’s getting a new set of rules to familiarize myself with and an entire century, since the NFL’s founding, of lore to catch up on.
I’m not saying anything no one’s said before. This concept is neither imaginative, nor original. I guess that, more than anything, this is me admitting that I was wrong. I used to be a plain old hater: I didn’t get it, I didn’t feel any urge to get it. Aspects of the “bro-ey” culture confused and scared me.
This might well be a classic “enemies-to-lovers” trope. But I have to admit it — I’m in love with football.
At risk of sounding like a celebrity at an acceptance speech (though, getting to cover the Super Bowl from behind the scenes certainly feels like I’ve won every award possible), I would like to thank all my friends and our Daily Cal sports staff for bearing with me through the most ridiculous questions imaginable. But, as I was reminded (against my will, at times), asking for help is refusing to give up.
And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, my becoming a “full-time football connoisseur” is starting to feel more like falling in love.