Talking Sports in the War Zone: The Passion of the Fans

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Talking Sports in the War Zone: The Passion of the Fans
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

By Ryan of The Sportmeisters

Ryan, founder of and contributor to The Sportmeisters, is currently deployed to Afghanistan as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom. While there, he is writing about his experiences as a sports fan. This is his latest update.

 

One of the biggest concerns I had (besides my wife and my safety), was whether or not I was going to be able to follow my favorite teams. Turns out, there are plenty of opportunities, even when I’m eight-and-a-half hours ahead of EST.

The catch to those opportunities is some early wake up calls. That became the most prevalent with the kickoff of College Football. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love all sports, and enjoy catching my Yankees after my morning workout.

But with the NFL and College Football, the shortened schedule makes every game meaningful. This holds even more true in College Football, with the lack of a playoff system (an argument for another time).

My first experience involving an early wake-up came thanks to the Labor Day showdown between my alma mater Florida State University and our rivals from Miami. An 8:00 pm kickoff meant a 4:30 am wakeup.

Now, I’ve watched FSU games from a variety of places. I went to all but one home game during my four years of college, and even traveled to a couple games. I’ve seen games on TV and listened to them on the radio.

I even caught one while stuck at work, and another one during a military exercise. Let me tell you, it’s difficult to cheer in a gas mask.

Nothing could have prepared me for this early wakeup. Instead of tailgating, drinking beers, and throwing down burgers, I was trying to force myself to stay awake enough to turn on the TV and my computer so I could webchat with my wife (also an FSU alumni).

In what messed up world do I live in that I can’t even wake up before kickoff?

The great thing though, after I traveled into work much later in the day, is that I know my passion is not felt alone. I work with an eclectic group of sports fans, those who root for the Georgia Bulldogs, USC Trojans, and Texas Longhorns for College Football, and the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, and Cleveland Browns of the NFL.

Heck, the Browns fan is so passionate, he gets up at 3:30 am to catch a preseason game! Maybe it’s because he doesn’t think the Browns will win much else, but regardless, he considers himself to be such a fan that he ensures he is rooting for his team during all parts of the season.

The guys at work understand the passion that I exhibit, because they do so themselves. They willingly risk a few extra hours of sleep to live and die by the success and failure of their favorite squad.

I commiserated with my co-worker, who is a UGA fan, about getting up before dawn only to watch his team lose. Yet, he told me he’d do it again in a heartbeat, and with UGA back on TV here next week, he’d gladly be up early to watch again.

So, I too took the plunge into early wakeup and joined my fellow Seminoles, ready for a great game. Unfortunately, the early rise was for naught, as FSU lost a valiant battle to the hated Hurricanes.

Yet after my head hurt and I was tired to the point that it reminded me of a bad hangover, I told myself, even knowing the outcome, I’d be up that early again in a heartbeat.

Every fan measures their passion in a different way. For some, it's baring everything and painting their bodies head to toe in team colors. Others choose to spend ungodly amounts of money on memorabilia.

For myself and the other sports fans deployed here in Afghanistan, our passion is derived from the three hours in darkness, huddled around a small television, rooting our teams to glory.

Those three hours mean a lot to us, as it allows us to get lost in a game and leave the situation we are brought here to handle for a short while. Eventually the game ends, but we know that in just a week’s time, win or lose, we’ll be up rooting for our team.

My New York Giants play Sunday at 12:30 am here in Afghanistan. It may not be in high-definition, and I won’t have a beer nearby, and I’ll be dead tired, but believe me when I say, that’s how deep my passion runs—all the way to the war zone.

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