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.