My Kids: Hardcore Football Fans

For the last couple years I’ve bought a family pass to Utah’s forgotten college football team. It’s turned into something that the oldest four kids really look forward to. And even though I spend more time keeping up with the kids than watching the action on the field, it’s something I look forward too as well.

This season has been an ignominious one for Weber State. They’ve only won one game and are struggling on offence, defense, and special teams.  Today was the team’s last home game. If anything it was a garbage game as both Weber State and Northern Colorado had nothing to play for but pride. To make things worse, Mother Nature dumped 12 inches of snow in the last 24 hours and the forecast called for temperatures to be below freezing. Because of the freezing weather, I decided to give the kids a choice: we could go to the football game or we could go to the game or a nearby entertainment center and play laser tag and (indoor) miniature golf.

Much to my surprise the all four kids voted for the football game. There wasn’t any hesitation to their decision either. They all wanted to spend the afternoon at the game no matter what the weather. So I dressed the kids as warm as I could and packed blankets and other warm things into the van and off we went.

Even though we only made it until half time (it got too cold for the younger ones), everyone had a good time playing in the snow, drinking hot chocolate, and huddling under blankets for warmth. Yes, Weber State put in another lackluster performance, but that’s not what mattered. What was important that the kids had a fun-filled afternoon with Dad and we all made lots of memories together. In that respect the cold, the snow, and watching Weber State lose was worth it.

Can’t wait to do it all again next year.

College Football = Family Time

As a kid my dad took me and my brother to Utah State football games. Some of my fondest memories as a 5-year-old were sitting about as high as one can sit in Romney Stadium watching the action on the field.

We moved soon after that and though I watched a lot of football with my dad, we didn’t attend any Utah State games for another 10 years or so. The only reason we went back was because Utah State offered family passes to their football games. Since they were cheap, I was able to talk my dad into getting one. I think the family only attended the first game. I believe my dad and I were the only ones that used the pass after that. Most of the time we watched the Aggies get their butts kicked by unheralded college teams like Pacific and Cal State Fullerton but we had a good time anyway. It was football, after all. It was hard not to have a good time.

Looking back, I realize the games we went to as a kid and a teenager were fun not because of the football but because I got to hang out with my dad. Now that I have young kids of my own who like watching games the occasional game on TV and playing football in the yard with me, I thought it would be fun to take them to some college games. The problem was finding a close and fun place to take them.

The popular college football tickets in this state are to Utah and BYU games. Having attended games in both stadiums I know from firsthand experience that neither are places I want to take young kids. The passion and intensity that can be found in both places is great if you’re in college or an adult who has his or her identity wrapped up in a football team, but there not so good if you’re a dad trying to spend a fun Saturday afternoon with the kids. (Utah State games aren’t much better.)

Last year I got word that my alma mater, Weber State, was offering family passes for its home football games. I bought one on a whim even though I wasn’t sure if my kids were going to enjoy it. At the very least I figured it would give me an excuse to go to a couple of games—even if I ended up going with just one or two of the kids. Besides, I figured the kids would have a good time since Weber State games are about as family friendly as a football game can get. On a good day the stadium is half full. That means if your kids get bored about halfway through the game, there’s plenty of empty bleachers to play on and tons of other bored kids to befriend. And the fans that do show up for games never have high expectations. If Weber State wins, everyone goes home happy and somewhat pleasantly surprised. If they lose, everyone shrugs their shoulders and goes home happy. It’s kind of the way sporting events should be.

Much to my delight, the kids loved going to the games. Granted they seemed to enjoy the kettle corn and root beer I bought them just as much, if not more, than the action on the field but the loading up the van on Saturday afternoons and making the 90 minute drive to Ogden become something they really looked forward to.

This year renewing the family pass was a no-brainer. The tickets arrived in the mail yesterday and the kids were thrilled when I showed them what was in the envelope. We marked the games on the calendar and the kids went to bed tonight chattering about kettle corn and upcoming football games. And to be honest, I’m just as excited about it as they are.

When they look back at these days I hope they realize the reason I take them to football games isn’t because of the action on the grid iron. It’s because I enjoy spending lots of uninterrupted time with them. Football games just happen to be a fun way to do just that.

Fathers and Sons and College Football

Weber State Wildcats Football

One of my earliest memories is attending a college football game with my dad. I was four or five at the time when he took me to Romney Stadium to watch Utah State take on BYU. I don’t remember who won but I do remember sitting near the top of the stadium watching a packed stadium of people enjoy the game. I also remember feeling really special that I could go to such a big event with my dad who was usually busy working to support a family and trying to finish his MFA.

As the years passed, my dad and I bonded a lot over football. There were Denver Broncos games that were watched fairly religiously every Sunday and a period of a few years when I was a teenager when he bought a family pass to Utah State games and most Saturdays would take the hour drive to Logan and watch most of their home games. Those were good times--even if Utah State fielded an awful team (and even worse schedule) year after year.

Though I don’t watch as much football as I did ten or even fifteen years ago, I still watch it and, recently, the two oldest boys have enjoyed watching it with me. After seeing their interest in the sport (or at least their interest in spending time with Dad), this weekend I took them up to Ogden so they could watch their first college football game and get some good bonding time with dad.

Taking 5- and 3-year-old boys to a game was somewhat of a gamble since I didn’t know if they’d have an attention span to sit through a three hour game. Unlike watching a game at home where they can sit on the couch for five minutes, go play with toys, and then come back to the couch, they wouldn’t have many entertainment options at the game.

On the other hand, if I was going to take them to a game, Weber State games are a great environment for kids to develop an interest in the game. Since Weber State plays in the football championship subdivision and has three Division I teams within a 90 minute drive of their stadium, most college football fans in the state don’t even know or care what the Wildcats are doing. The fans that do show up are passionate without being over-the-top about their team. And since the 15,000 seat stadium is usually half-full, there’s plenty of room for little kids to spread out and run around if they get restless. And since the stadium is small, there’s not a bad seat in the house so they’re always close to the action.

We showed up to the game 10 minutes before kickoff. I bought the boys some kettle corn and something to drink and we settled into the general admission seats just as the game started.

The boys were too busy munching kettle corn to pay much attention to the first few minutes of the game. But once the settled down, I was surprised by how much they actually watched the game. They learned to cheer when “the purple team” did something good and “the white team” messed up. By halftime the 5 year old was able to read the scoreboard. And in the third quarter, when the 3 year old got tired, he simply used Dad’s leg as a pillow for a quarter but kept his eyes on the field and would occasionally ask a question about what happened.

But they were both awake and active through the fourth quarter, and, in the end, they sat through the whole game. And even though Weber State lost, as we climbed in the van to go home both boys told me how much fun they had and asked if we could go to another game soon.

I told them there was another game in two weeks and, if they wanted, I’d take them to it.

The boys excitedly said “Yes!”

As I drove home and listened to the boys talk to each other and laugh, I realized that, as a dad, I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon with my sons.