Just moments before its ending credits, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” shows its protagonist, Jimmie Falls, taking a dejected bus ride home in a film chock full of dejected bus rides. At this point in the movie, his titular city’s push toward an insanely optimistic and effectively unhuman vision of “the future” has swallowed his life whole. Gentrification took his childhood home, the ensuing poverty pushed him out of his parents’ care, and the hurt of it all has exploded in a confrontation that now threatens to end the only friendship he has left.
On the bus, he overhears two girls. They’re stereotypical millennials—well-meaning, college-educated desk jockeys who fantasize about a better world between trips to microbreweries. This city blows, one says. I’m not above living in a former crack house, but I came here for Janis and the Airplane, not to work at a startup.
Her friend concurs. The city’s dead.
Jimmie, despite everything, cocks his head. Excuse me? They look up. You don’t get to hate San Francisco.
The girls balk. Yeah, dude, I mean, I’m sorry, one says, but I’ll hate what I want.
Do you love it? he asks.
It’s…I mean- yeah, I’m here. But do I have to love it?
You don’t get to hate it unless you love it.
I hate Aggie football. I hate how my alma mater’s team hasn’t won a conference title since I was a year old. I hate how they hoisted their last championship trophy a few months before Adolph took his tanks for a joyride around Paris. I hate the decades they spent playing second fiddle to a program they fundamentally could not match in resources because the crusty alumni of generations past couldn’t let go of the school’s all-male military trappings until it was far too late. I hate how the crusty alumni of our generation can’t stop bitching about it. I hate how I can’t, either.
It pains me how I’ve lived my entire life around this pumped-up farm school. I hate the childhood memories I made picking little fights with kids in burnt orange t-shirts on the elementary playground because my team sucked and theirs didn’t. I cringe thinking about the cutesy jokes my Baptist pastor made on Sunday morning about the lingering disappointment from Saturday night to make the threats of eternal damnation go down smoother. And don’t get me started on the long-term psychological effects of watching The Bad Guys win it all in an instant classic as I sat, nine years old and powerless, in my pappy’s living room.
And College Station, the town that raised me? The flat little college town that could where they built a $400 million mecca to this shit? Oh yeah. I definitely hate it here.
Despite the world telling me to detach and watch my forefathers’ proudest institutions, even the relatively insignificant ones like college football, collapse in slow motion from a safe distance while The Pixies play in the background, I can’t help but root for it all. Every fall, I punch my proverbial timecard at a Kyle Field entry gate, find my seat, and show up with my whole heart. I sing the dumb songs and scream at the opposing quarterback with everyone else. I don’t boo bad calls, I hiss—not because it’s the right thing but because it’s the gloriously stupid thing.
Years of watching the Aggies lose games they shouldn’t in ways never imagined have numbed me to defeat and rendered me skeptical of victory, but it makes no real difference. I’m going see it all regardless. No one gets to hate it but me—me and whoever else got to watch someone rip their pathetic little dreams away and run them back 80 yards year after year since before they were old enough to tie their shoes.
In turn, no one else gets to love it like I do. No one else gets to cry a little at Dave South screaming HE GOT A TOUCHDOWN like he’s watching the final triumph of good over evil. No one else gets to laugh as hard at the same jokes about the Fran years or UCLA or two starting quarterbacks transferring within weeks of each other. And no one else gets to celebrate like I will if, by divine grace, these chosen 20-year-olds in shoulder pads find their way to the promised land.
So to hell with superconferences, media contracts, playoff expansion, big oil donors, inflated coaches’ salaries, table-tilting player sponsorships, blank checks, blank championship plaques, recruiting battles, preseason rankings, NCAA death rattles, suit-and-tie athletic directors subtweeting each other like 15-year-old Drake stans, state politicians playing the ultimate fairweather fans late in the season, announcers giving the blueblood programs sloppy toppy on national television, all our past defeats, and all our past victories—real, moral, or imagined.
None of that shit matters now. If it ever did, there was hardly anything you or I could do to change it. Believe me; I can bite on the clickbait like anyone else in the offseason’s depths, but not now. For the next few months, I’m going to watch the absurd, four-hour, sweat-drenched bar fight we dare call a sport like it’s a glimpse of the salvation my pastor promised. I’m going to leave all my sorrows at the concession stand and take any new ones I accrue during the game back home just to do it all again next week.
I’m going to watch my team—my team—try and beat the ever-living, ever-loving, compound, complex, Fightin’ Texas Aggie hell out of whoever lines up in front of them.