Are You Ready for Some Football Part II: How Football Finally Made Me Cry

You can read Part I of the story here.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve cried this summer.  I’m fine, remember?

I didn’t cry at my dad’s memorial service.  In fact, I reveled in the celebration of his life and took odd comfort in consoling the people who came and cried on my shoulder.

I didn’t cry as I spent 8 weeks living in my parents’ house, the house I grew up in, surrounded by his things. I looked at his clothes hanging in the closet, at his briefcase filled with law review articles, at the pictures of him scattered on tabletops and bookcases. I liked seeing those traces of him everywhere, as if he was about to bound through the doorway at any moment, ready to kiss my mom on the forehead and tell the boys a silly joke.

I didn’t cry as we all took on the roles that he had always performed – washer of dinner dishes (although he always preferred the more elegant french moniker plongeur and indeed had it emblazoned on his apron), maker of my mother’s nightly diet coke, master of Scrabble, reader of every book ever written.  In doing all those things, we actually assumed little pieces of him into our own lives.

I didn’t cry as we took our first family vacation without him or sat in his chair by the river every night.

I didn’t cry as I stood in his office, amid his things – his collection of antique maps, his pictures of my children – and thumbed through legal treatises with decades of highlighted cases and handwritten notes in the margins. Instead I remembered the countless days I accompanied him to the office as a child.  The heady smell of stacks of legal tomes and the snippets of conversation between brilliant men carefully solving complex problems made their way into my little brain as I colored on the firm letterhead.  My love for the law was born out of those days.

But last Saturday, I stood in the middle of Scott Stadium and watched my beloved (and beleaguered) team take the field. I heard the fireworks pop and the crowd roar and the band play.  And I cried.

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I can’t explain why that moment, as opposed to all the others, was the trigger.  Maybe because those games were the closest thing we had to family tradition. We didn’t have regular Sunday dinners (with 4 lawyers in the family, there was never a chance of maintaining a regular schedule) but we did have Saturdays in Charlottesville.  Over the years, our family grew, not just by marriage and birth, but also adoption. Our neighbors in Section 123 have come to be our family too.  And on Saturday, all of them, feeling their own loss, tried to fill the void left by my dad’s unmistakable presence.

Or maybe it was because we shared this silly passion for our team.  It was ours together.  A passion which spilled over into an obscene collection of orange and blue apparel and housewares. A passion which brought us to Charlottesville every Saturday even when we knew we’d lose. A passion that bore ridiculous superstitions.  A passion which led me to spend three weeks and an obscene amount of money following the basketball team from Greensboro to Raleigh to New York. A passion which was, after all, the origin of the Lucky Orange Pants.

I get it. It makes no sense to most of you.

But that’s the thing about passion.  It is, by its very definition, completely irrational.  It makes you do and say stupid things.  It is all-consuming. It is loving something more than yourself, even when it hurts.  It makes you see the possible and believe in the impossible.  It is love at its most primal and raw.

Passion is the place in your heart where love and fear and hope and heartbreak collide.

So I suppose it makes perfect sense that that passion was the trigger.  I have always been a roller coaster of emotion.  Until July.  Since then I have been even-keeled in a way not even I expected.  But as I stood in the middle of Scott Stadium, while the sights and sounds and smells swirled around my head in the hot breeze, I felt the whir of the roller coaster engine rumbling to life again and the jolt in my stomach as it started moving uphill.

Today we will go back and do it all again.  People say that each time it will get easier.  I hope it doesn’t.  I hope that feeling washes over me every time I walk into the stadium.

It might not make any sense but, after all, passion comes from the heart, not the head.