The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta.
I like football. A lot. I’ve probably been to hundreds of football games in my life. In my high school and college years, I stood on the sidelines. I can still tape an ankle, wrap a groin, and diagnose a concussion. I can still nurse bruises and sprains back to health. I worked with Bill Walsh in college. I once walked into the Notre Dame locker room before a game and shook hands with Lou Holtz. I’ve stood on the 50 yard line in the Rose Bowl stadium. I’ve looked up at Touchdown Jesus. I’m not going to lie. It was pretty amazing.
And here I claim to be a Georgia girl, but have no allegiance to any Georgia football program. I never say Go Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Go GSU Panthers, but I agree it’s very exciting that Georgia State now has a team. This week for the first time in my life I said “Go Dawgs” and meant it, even though I resent colloquial spellings of real words.
There were a lot of “Go Dawgs Go” during UGA’s win at the Rose Bowl. Dr. Seuss would’ve been proud and the entire city of Atlanta cheered for the University of Georgia. I don’t care who your favorite team is, you have to admit it was a great game.
To the fans of the College Football Playoff National Championship game, I bid you good luck. Roll Tide! Go Dawgs! The Georgia Bulldogs will face the Alabama Crimson Tide for the final game of the year. If you have $10,000 you can see the game in person. Alone. For one single seat.
I have friends who don’t like football. They take pride in their distain of sports. They recite a long list of complaints about professional and collegiate sports. In recent years, I’ve felt conflicted in my love of the football.
It used to be the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But now it is traumatic head injuries, misogyny, nepotism, and a system that preys upon the socio-economically fragile. There is a strange interdependent relationship between the government, military, patriotism, and subservience. No one wants to talk about domestic violence and entitlement and crime.
How’s that for a pre-game pep talk? Let me grab my pom-poms. I love poetry and science and sci-fi and romance novels. Yet I still watch, and I still love football.
I love skill and athleticism of making a run and changing directions.
I love the surprises in every game, including those crushing defeats.
I like the steam that comes off an athlete’s body when they play in the cold.
I like when the camera flashes to parents in the stands who wear their son’s jersey.
I like when two opposing fans shake hands and give each other a bro-hug.
I hate the pressure I feel when the kicker takes the field. I love the rush I feel when the punter sends the ball to the other team.
I love when a play goes as planned.
I love when the play goes better than planned.
I love that there is a way to wage war without the stadium becoming a battlefield.
I like football.
I like that Alabama and Georgia might be spoken of without the pressure of politics and the past.
I’ve been to Alabama. I have a Bear Bryant hat. A nice one.
I’ve sat in a bar or two in Athens, Georgia. I know good people on both sides of the line.
I like football clichés. I’ve got no skin in the game. I’ve got no dawg in this fight.
I’ve got a love of football.
Some say I shouldn’t, but I’ve never liked being told what to think or what to do.
I think I’ll watch some football. I’m ready. Are you?
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. The Zero Mile column appears on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.