My son and I made our annual trek this Fall, all the way around the Beltway to FedEx Field – home of the Washington Redskins.
We do it once a year, every season.  We find all our burgundy and gold gear,  pull out hundreds of dollars from the ATM for the over-priced, heart-clogging hot dogs and nachos, and of course, every year, we forget the binoculars so we can maybe see from the nosebleed seats, the only ones I can afford.  We then hit the traffic just about Exit 18, with each car more prominently showing their die hard Redskin pride.  We overpay to park and still have to walk seemingly forever to get to the stadium.  After the game, we have to walk back with now tired feet, an empty wallet, stomach pains from too many stadium calories and aching throats from all the screaming.  We crawl to the Beltway with traffic now backed up all the way home.
Sounds awful, the entire experience feels dreadfully miserable … but all we can talk about is how excited we are to do it again next year.

What exactly is the appeal?  Why tolerate this inconvenient mayhem just to be there – especially when the view is so much better and more comfortable from the living room?  I finally found a name for it – it is the immersion in the spirit of the community.  Where else can you yell and scream as loud as you want without embarrassment?  Where else can you bond with complete strangers, slapping high-fives, as if you are best buddies?  Where else can you communally feel and share the excitement in the air the second you walk into the stadium? Where else is hope alive – that your team can be down by two-possessions at half-time, only to intercept the ball for the winning field goal in overtime?  It is an experience of permission – to let go and be our most basic human self – to be hopeful, to feel passion, to express our raw primitiveness.  For just a few hours, we let loose together – no holds barred – in support of the ‘Skins.  Anything goes – we dance, we sing, we talk to each other, we eat bad food and drink cheap beer – all before returning to our separateness – in our cars, our homes, our lives.  Being there is an experience of group cohesion that you just rarely find elsewhere.

As I write this, I am aware of feeling shame.  What?!  I go to a football game to experience a few moments of aliveness?  My intelligent, politically-correct side knows that football is a violent game where we pay men large sums of money to entertain us at a high cost to their young bodies.  And yet, my human side says, yes … until we can come up with something else that stirs such feeling and community, something that equalizes all racial and class divisions, count me in as a wearer of the burgundy and gold.  My son and I can’t wait till next year.