CUGNON: Our pigskin families

For many Yalies, Sunday is football. We coordinate everything around kickoff, from social schedules to the problem sets we really should have started last weekend. A single sport, sometimes a single team, dominates our day. While Yale has forced us to find some creative ways of actually watching the games — especially for those of us whose hometown teams lie outside of the New York and New England areas — family “game-day” traditions find a way of resurfacing here in New Haven.

In my central-Virginia household, the Washington Redskins rule the roost. Watching the latest failings of D.C.’s perennially maligned squad is a weekly event. Unhealthy foods of all sorts are prepared and voraciously consumed, while jerseys are donned and expletives freely hurled. What makes football so significant, so intrinsic to my family’s weekly routine, is the way it brings us together. We are bonded as a family by the simple act of stopping for a few hours and watching 22 super-athletes hurl themselves at each other.

My Calhoun suite experienced that very feeling when the Redskins took on the Philadelphia Eagles in their season opener. I proudly threw on my Robert Griffin III jersey, dragged a few of my suitemates to our common room couch and proceeded to swear wildly as my Redskins, true to form, threw away the game. Little had I realized that football, much as it had at home, took over my evening. I could think of nothing other than the game on TV, as work was tossed by the wayside. An evening of suite bonding erupted from an otherwise mundane day. While the faces were new, the tradition of community (and junk food) remained the same, reminding everyone of life “back home.”

While college isn’t necessarily conducive to the transplantation of homegrown weekly norms, Yale doesn’t force us to abandon everything we once loved about Sundays. Football merely becomes a new way for students to meet, talk and shout together. Every football-oriented Sunday custom predicates itself on the idea of a community. Whether that community is a family, a group of friends or even a bunch of strangers is irrelevant. The return of football has signaled a return to outgoing, person-to-person interactions that are uniquely fostered by the world of spectator sports.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time glued to a television screen, sitting side-by-side with an ever-changing group of peers, cheering and jeering as each game unfolds. At this point, the team I’m watching doesn’t even matter, I’m just glad to have football back. Spectator sports, especially football, give us a unique sense of connection with the people in our social spheres. For a few moments, we are all focused on the exact same thing, free to express emotion loudly and openly, rather than hide feelings of intense elation or displeasure. Outbursts are encouraged and personal reservations have a tendency of leaving the room. Sundays have become a time to reconnect with suitemates and friends; football serves as our intermediary.

Even though my family is hundreds of miles away, a new family emerges in front of every screen. Watching games here at Yale brings a big group of very different people together, with a nationally viewed sport serving as an excuse to meet people with whom you may have nothing in common. My suitemates from Arkansas, New Jersey, Mexico City, New Hampshire and Florida all joined me, for varying intervals, to catch a few minutes of football. Though our origins are very different, “America’s game” gives us all a chance to connect (often by consoling people like me, whose teams can’t seem to find the end zone).

Though I initially associated my Sundays with a family tradition that I could never recreate, that feeling has evaporated. Football has provided a new way to bring together a village. It helps us to find our place, make new memories and start those new traditions we’ll have when we leave.

Marc Cugnon is a freshman in Calhoun College. Contact him at marc.cugnon@yale.edu.

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