Baseball is referred to as “America’s pastime.” I’m not here to argue that fact. Baseball has a long, rich history. It has survived the test of time. It’s great. The atmosphere when catching a game at the ballpark is incredible.
Then there is basketball. I enjoy everything about it. Watching, studying it, writing about it and most of all playing the game. It was much easier to pick up a basketball and go across the street and shoot some hoops than it was to pick up a baseball or a football and get a game going. For years I could say that basketball was my number one.
That has changed as I have become older. Everyone has their favorite things in life. For me, sports are my passion. When it comes to my favorite sport of all, football is at the top of the list. There is something about football. The trash talking that takes place between two strangers in a bar watching their respective teams play; I can’t get enough of it. Maybe in football cities you don’t get this as often, but here in Oregon, when you walk into a bar on an NFL Sunday, you can find an array of fans ranging from the local Seattle Seahawks to the Cleveland Browns. Yes, I said the Browns. They have fans too.
The NFL season always seems too short. You wait so long for it to come back, and that could be what makes me long for it as much as I do. It’s like Game of Thrones in a way. You wait a whole year for it to come back and then they just blow your mind with a great season (seven), and then just like that, it’s gone. This leaves you wanting more. Here I am in that exact situation as I get set to wait damn-near a whole year for season eight. Good thing football season is here to pass the time.
Or maybe my love for football comes from early childhood memories. Those fond memories of waking up Sunday mornings and watching football with my dad (William Hartzog Sr.) and my older brother (William Hartzog Jr.). It grew into a routine. My dad was more of an NFL guy than a college football guy. Like my father, so am I. You could hear him yelling out during games, “Let’s go Miamoo”. Why he called them Miamoo beats me. Maybe it was a southern thing like the way he said “warsh” and not “wash.” Anyway, before I get too distracted, he was a diehard Miami Dolphins fan. That was up until “The Gunslinger” himself, Brett Favre, entered the NFL.
William Sr. grew up in a small town down south called Vancleave, Mississippi. This little town was about 35 miles from Favre’s hometown of Gulfport, MS. Favre played his college days locally for the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. So when the hometown boy eventually found his way to Green Bay, my dad settled in as a Packers fan.
He still followed the Dolphins and rooted for them as well, but Favre was his guy all the way.
William Jr. grew up liking the San Francisco 49ers. I was just a young kid (between 7-10) when I started watching these football games with them, so I vaguely remember many details from back then. However, what I do remember is the short-term rivalry that grew between the two from the mid-to-late 90s. The Packers had beaten the 49ers a few years straight in the playoffs. One game stands out to me as my most memorable game. “The Catch 2” as it’s referred to these days. It was the 1998 NFC Wild Card game and the 49ers trailed once again. With the clock winding down, Steve Young almost falls as he drops back, but he kept his balance and delivered a perfect throw down the middle to Terrell Owens. As the ball lands in Owens’ hands, two defenders sandwich him in the endzone. Owens holds on for dear life to score the game-winning touchdown. The 49ers finally beat the Packers!
The 49ers and Packers were two of the top teams in the NFC at the time. So watching my brother, whom I sort of looked up to, rooting for the 49ers against our dad’s Packers made me want to join as a fan as well. I’ve been a faithful ever since. Last year was a rough season for me. As a 49ers fan, you can see why.
But it wasn’t only that. You see, around this time a year ago my father passed away. No more Sundays waking up and talking a little trash to him about the teams he liked and vice versa. He was gone.
It all really hit me when that first NFL game of the season came on just a few days later. The rematch of the Super Bowl. The last football advice that he gave me was to put some money on the Denver Broncos in that Super Bowl. He told me their defense was going to eat Cam Newton alive. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
I didn’t take his advice, probably because “I’m stubborn like my mother” as he would always tell me. I thought the Carolina Panthers were going to pull it off. Newton was having the season of his life.
Boy was I wrong. The Broncos destroyed them.
So, when that rematch came to on that first night, with the timing of everything, I broke down. I got to thinking of the all those moments of watching football and everything in between. Knowing that I could no longer give him a simple phone call to ask what his picks were that week made me miss him that much more. You miss the simple things in life when life’s unfortunate events take those opportunities away. I miss my old man.
Whether it’s football that you love or some other passion…take the time to sit back, relax and enjoy that shit. Life is too short sometimes. Surround yourself with the people you love and those who truly love you. We all need to remind ourselves at times to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life. You never know what tomorrow brings.
Sure, there are more important things in life than football. Or sports in general for that matter. Most of those important things we have no control over. I personally leave those important things in life to those who can make change. I can’t fix the world and all its problems, but I can always watch sports.
When I sit down and watch football this season it will be with the people who I truly love and those who truly love me. For all you football fans out there, good luck to all your trash teams. You’re going to need it.
Go Niners! Cheers.