Hard to Buy for

So apparently I’m notoriously hard to buy gifts for. Even my sisters tell me this, and they’ve known me their entire lives.

“We never now what to get you,” they say to my face, as if I’m some alien that has just teleported to the planet.

College Football book
College Football book

This was perhaps never better proven than this year, when my father-in-law presented me with a book containing the complete history of college football. It’s shaped like a … (wait for it) college football. Really. This thing brings new meaning to “leather bound” (is pigskin considered leather?) It even has laces, which should make it easy to throw … no, no, just kidding, that’s mean.

Actually, I sort of love my college-football-shaped college football book. I opened it up and it immediately started with  Walter Camp and Yale and the key role they played in developing the game in its early stages. It reminded me of a piece I wrote in college.

I honestly can’t remember if it was for the Yale Herald or the Yale Daily News, but it was an interview with Clint Frank, who won the Heisman trophy in 1937 while playing for Yale . By the time I spoke with him, sometime around 1990, he was about 75 years old. It turned out to be just a year or two before his death. It had been years since anyone wanted to talk with him about football and he was more than happy to have a long phone conversation with me, from which I pulled material that allowed me to write probably my best article from those days.

Unfortunately I couldn’t locate the article. I don’t have a copy anymore. I’m sort of bad at keeping such things.

(I did, however, find this gem. It’s sort of a big file and may take some time to load but if you’re patient, check out the very last article in the file, on page 8, about the Men’s Soccer team. Turns out I wasn’t a bad little sports reporter. Maybe I should’ve … nah).

So at one time I probably did love college football enough to own a football-shaped book about it. But then I moved to The South and discovered that I was wrong all that time about football being a game. Turns out it’s a religion instead. Who knew?

About a month ago, I was listening to sports radio in the car here in Atlanta. The two hosts were discussing the controversy over Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and his being accused of an alleged sexual assault. The decision had just come down that Winston would not be charged but details were sketchy. So here’s what one host said: “At the end of the day, this is exactly like JFK’s assassination. We’ll never know what really happened here.” Yes, whether a freshman plays in an important football game is basically just like one of the seminal moments in our country’s history.

This kind of discussion and these types of comparisons make me a little sad. They also turn me off of the sport. I still watch the big games, but in the back of my mind is always this misplaced fanaticism. I’m pretty sure I even know some people for whom their complete identity is drawn from whether their team wins or loses, an outcome they have literally no control over.

I used to spend a lot of my time playing Fantasy Football. And even more time watching the actual games (both college and NFL). Then, a few years back, part of me probably thinking of that Clint Frank article I wrote, I decided to get back into writing. The big question was, where to find the time?

Then I sat down – actually sat down – and calculated the number of hours I’d spent in my life on football – watching it, planning to watch it, playing fantasy games related to it – as well as the number of hours I’d end up spending in the future if I continued at that pace. The size of the result was scary. But happy, because I suddenly knew where my time to write would come from.

So I’m not sure I love college football enough anymore to deserve to own this wonderful football-shaped book. But I still love it. I love all the gifts I get, because it means I was in that person’s thoughts, if even for just a moment. And that’s really nice.

And for the record, two Starbucks gift cards accompanied the book. These, of course, will get heavy use.

I’m not that hard to buy for. Just get me coffee.

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