This past weekend marked the start of the 2013 NFL season.
Usually, I can’t wait for the boys of fall to take the field. I should’ve been at least as excited for this year as I’ve been for seasons past, seeing how many interesting story lines going into Sunday: the ramifications of the Aaron Hernandez indictment, the Jets’ joke of a quarterback situation (that butt-fumble never gets old) and Sean Payton returning to New Orleans, among others.
Being from Philadelphia, I'm especially optimistic about my hometown Eagles' situation, as Andy Reid is (finally) gone, and the Chip Kelly era has begun.
But, honestly, I couldn’t tell you how the Patriots did Sunday. I don’t know who started for the Jets at quarterback. Did Sean Payton lead the Saints to victory? I have no idea.
In terms of the NFL, I am just so out of it.
Instead, I’ve been spending a lot of time learning about and covering Duke sports. I may not be able to name my own Eagles' offensive line, but, the thing is, I can name every single player on the Blue Devil field hockey team. I know the squad's record, its leading goal scorer and the goals against average of its goalkeeper.
I wish I had a strong opinion on Joe Flacco’s new contract, but I don't. I do opine, though, that the Duke men’s soccer team is grossly underrated. I think that its influx of young offensive talent combined with its new goalkeeper will make the Blue Devils a serious contender in the ACC.
I know that the men’s golf team will be the defending ACC champions when they open up their fall season next week. I know that the women’s soccer team enters ACC play with a struggling offense, but a dominant defense. I know that the volleyball team has swept every foe it has faced so far, except for the two ranked opponents who swept it.
Usually, I pride myself on the fact that I can talk about sports with anyone, specifically professional sports. To me, sports are the great connector. Give me my roommate, who once asked me how many touchdowns Mason Plumlee scored; put me in a room with all my guy friends, who each have ESPN as their homepages and are currently wholeheartedly dedicated to winning their fantasy football leagues; let me interview an athlete, and I’ll show each of them how much we can bond over our mutual knowledge and enjoyment of the game.
It’s sad, because I love professional sports. But this fall so far, between school, my friends, my extracurricular commitments, trying to maintain a semblance of a social life and an on-campus job, I don’t have much time to dedicate to them. Plus, with my commitment to The Chronicle, I need to scan NCAA.com looking for the statistics on assist leaders in college soccer, not check the football scoreboard like I’ve done in the past.
So have I been a bad sports fan this fall? Is the fact that I can’t name one Patriots wide receiver anymore negated by the fact that I have extensive knowledge on the Duke cross country team? Is my lack of caring about Tim Tebow’s future in the NFL balanced out by my attendance at multiple Duke field hockey games?
My friends certainly don't seem to think that I have been a loyal sports fan this fall. I understand that, until it’s basketball season, they don’t exactly prioritize Blue Devil sports. Even though football, our most “relevant” fall sport, reached a bowl game last year, it’s going to take a while until the team can compete with primetime Alabama games, Johnny Manziel or darties for my friend’s attention on the weekends. No, until the winter, Duke sports are an afterthought to most of them.
But this year, I have eaten, breathed and lived the Blue Devils, and I think that it has made me a better sports fan than ever before.
To me, sports fandom is about the appreciation and discussion of the game, and I have had the opportunity to do that extensively during my time at Duke with a variety of sports. No matter what team I get to see—whether it was witnessing the men’s lacrosse team's national championship this summer, or sitting in the freezing cold watching a nearly four-hour long extra-inning Duke baseball game—I have felt honored to be watching Division I athletics. My articles with The Chronicle then give me a forum to review and comment on what I just witnessed and to find a story buried beneath the performances and statistics.
And I love it.
So I’m sorry if I had to finish my field hockey game story Sunday night instead of watching the first football Sunday of the year. I appreciate the Blue Devils' double overtime victory against Rutgers just as much as I appreciate Peyton Manning’s record-breaking performance in Denver. I may be out of the loop on sports that most people think matter, but I don't have time to think about that—the soccer team is playing tonight.