There’s a moment when you feel that something has got a hold of you before you even know what it is. It’s an abstract current that sweeps through the atmosphere and unlocks some hidden predilection in you. You’re ten years old sitting in a compact square of red and black in the visitor’s section of Texas Memorial Stadium. The Texas Longhorns are the center of your tiny, limited college football universe, but Texas Tech is taking them down a notch on their own field and you’re screaming with your best friend and his Red Raider parents and the rest of the rowdy, vuvuzela-toting maniacs from West Texas, a few hundred people making more noise than the entire stadium, and it’s roiling your blood and you don’t even know why, but you like it. That’s the first moment.
It’s sheer adrenaline, and that rare hit is worth so many months of the mundane and endless off-season and the patient endurance of the more teeth-gnashing aspects of college football. You put up with it all to get another moment.
There are many others through the years. Descending the third deck as a student while Texas A&M puts the finishing touches on the unstoppable ‘98 Nebraska team. Hearing the booming of the cannons in the ramps and rushing to the parapets to catch the replay on the jumbotron and not even caring that you’re late for your part-time job because your boss was watching on TV too and therefore too giddy to yell at you when you get there. Later that fall, watching the conference championship game on the couch and feeling the despondency slipping away in the waning moments and then sudden elation and a citywide party that lasted for days. The next year, beating Texas. Your friend grabs a stray bike after the game and rides it into the West Campus library and not even the workers at the counter give a shit. They laugh. It’s their moment too.
That moment in particular sums it up best: it was a pocket of sheer joy amid the absolute tragedy of the aftermath of Bonfire’s fall. All the rules of the universe fell away for a few short hours that afternoon in ‘99 and we were allowed to be happy despite it all. You live in a surreal state for the remainder of that day and evening and you relish the absolute recklessness of it, and you savor each memory and store it as armor against the long wait for the next moment that begins the next day.
In college your heart is broken and you blow off important things and make yourself party to all manner of stupidity, and if you’re aware enough at the time you hate yourself for it. Then the autumn Saturday rolls around and you know there’s a shot at forgetting about all of it if you have a moment. Later in life you inherit endless responsibilities and astound yourself sometimes with the seriousness with which you face things. Then, once again: Saturday morning you’ve got that extra bounce in your step, on the lookout for a moment. In those capsules of time following a special victory it all melts away and strips you down to the purest form of ecstasy. You wish you could explain to a rational mind how something as trivial as college guys hitting and chasing each other around a ball makes you feel this way, but the secret mystery of it makes it somehow more thrilling. You want to hoard this absurdity for yourself or share it sparingly with the knowing. The moments are yours and sometimes yours alone.
Years and years later, in Atlanta on a New Year’s Eve. The unlikeliest of second halves slowly unfolds as a once-in-a-lifetime player puts his signature on a masterpiece of a career. When Toney Hurd intercepts Duke and returns it for a touchdown you are screaming nonsensical things in all directions until he runs through the end zone. Then you are stunned speechless, staring silently at those around you, realizing that you have just witnessed one of the greatest bowl comebacks in history. That is the last big, crazy, juicy moment, and it still holds some potency when revisited three years later. But you want more.
This year you may have a moment, or you may have a few. We may all have the same series of moments and it may be astounding how great the moments are. But if the moments somehow aren’t finding you, try to remember why you started doing this in the first place. if the drudgery between the moments drags you down lower than the peaks, then it’s time to re-evaluate and let go of some angst. The Internet can be a wonderful tool for enhancing the college football experience. It can also be a colossal drain on your psyche if you get drawn in too deep. The only place the moments can really thrive is in your mind. Not every moment should be chronicled. Keep some for yourself, but not all of them.
You cannot predict or plan the moments. But they are floating out there in the ether waiting for you: you just have to be ready to enjoy them to their fullest when they bump into you. Take care of your moments, and remember why college football is the greatest fun.
2016 is a scary and dangerous place. The world is probably falling to shit around you, just like it was fifty or a hundred years ago for people in those moments. Just as it probably was for my friend’s parents that early November afternoon in the late ‘80s, months away from a divorce, when they took their son and his buddy to a college football game in the hope that their moment would rub off on some younger people who could carry those moments forward and make their own.
Find your moments, savor them, and pass them on when you can. They’re the most valuable currency of college football and the only ones that matter.