Informant: The interviewee in question here is a 20 year old girl studying business at USC. She hails from Austin, Texas.
So my family is a football family. I come from two long lines of people who went to UT (University of Texas) which is a big football school. My brother and I were born and my parents were big Houston Oilers fans, which are now the Tennessee Titans, but we don’t talk about that. The Oilers left Houston because their owner is a piece of shit and left. So for ten or twelve years, there was no football in Houston. Some people cheered for the Titans, some couldn’t. Then in 2002, it was the inaugural season of the Houston Texans. Football was back in Houston, we got the expansion team, people were so excited. Saying that in only a few years, we’d be winning the Super Bowl. That’s how well our draft went, etc. Ever since 2002 when I lived in Houston and to this day, my parents have had season tickets to the Houston Texans because my parents knew what it was like to not have football so we’re gonna make sure we go to every game we can. So growing up, we’d always have the same seats and I would get my mini Papa John’s pizza from the stadium and we’d watch the game and it was a family tradition, every single weekend and we’d tailgate with our family friends and I was introduced to this whole football culture. Then I became the bigger football fan as I got older, went to every game, and even when I go home now, we’ll still go. And my family stays connected a lot like that, texting each other about the game or what’s happening with the team. It’s great.
Tell me more about football culture.
Well before every game you tailgate. And tailgating is the best, everyone gets together, super excited. And the people who are “of age” drink and everyone’s in good spirits and it’s not even about the football. It’s about being together with your friends. You’re all on the same side, against or for something. All on the same page. And everyone hangs out, tosses around a football, talks, and walks over. And the game is more of that. It’s a whole day of socializing really, with a sports game in the center. And if it goes well, everyone’s super happy and if things don’t go well, everyone’s sad, but at least you’re sad together and you wait till next week and you talk about it and keep track of it and the injuries and the matchups and the rivalries and it’s great.
Analysis: America as a whole loves the sport of football and no region of the country loves it quite so much as the South. The game itself however is not the reason for it. The reason is for the ritualization that surrounds football, turning it from a simple win-or-lose game to a massive social occasion and cultural event. It can bond people with very little else in common. Meet a fan of the same team and you can instantly connect with them. Meet a fan of the other team and you can trash talk. Either way, a conversation has started where none existed before. And among people who are quite close already (like the family in this account) football can serve as a check-in and connection point, an excuse to talk or to celebrate.