by Lindsey Jean Smith, '11
Italian and English
Who would have thought that when Stanford beat USC 37-35, on October 9, 2010, I would have stood in the stands and cried for joy? It’s true — I actually cried. My conversion from cynic to fan was gradual, and almost nonexistent until college. Toward the end of high school I began to sentimentally associate football with things I loved: spending time with family and friends, rainy Sundays with warm fires, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. This association didn’t translate into an interest though, and I would never sit down and watch a game just to watch one; football was purely social. Somewhere between junior year of high school and senior year of college the change happened, and I became a die-hard football fan—Stanford takes most of the credit for that.
When I was five I got a pair of Walkie Talkies for my birthday. This shiny new toy did not turn me into a foreign spy, or a TV personality, as I had wildly imagined. Instead, they saw the most action on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays, when I was enlisted to help my dad “find the football channel”. I would sit on the living room rug, Walkie Talkie in hand, staring at the TV and watching as varying degrees of fuzziness came and went. My dad—up on the roof of our house, turning an enormous antenna that allowed us to get four or five local channels—would crackle questions at me through the Walkie Talkie: “How’s that, Sweetie?” Pause — I’d squint and frown, “Um… I guess I can see something… Nope, gone. Wait! That’s better… Ok, stop there.” What my dad never knew though is that more often than not, I would lie. I wouldn’t tell him to stop when the picture was clearest; instead, I’d pick something reasonably clear, but still annoyingly fuzzy. Why this calculating mischief? Because I had decided on behalf of my dad that football was a waste of his (and my time), and I was prepared to be a wicked little child if it meant that I saved him from watching football. After all, why waste three hours of your life watching men in funny outfits chase each other, and then cuddle in a large pile, when you could spend those three hours watching Peter Pan—twice. Really, I was doing him a favor.
So, how did it come to pass that I now enjoy spending my weekends stamping my feet, jingling my keys during kick off, eating hot dogs, and watching men in funny outfits throw around a ball? At Stanford—for the first time ever—I felt that I identified with my team. I knew some of the players, I knew tons of the fans, and most importantly, I felt that the Stanford Cardinal represented me. Whether we won or lost became important to me, because I saw myself there on the field, and I took it all very personally (my dad says he’s never seen me angrier than when Stanford was losing to USC in the beginning of the fourth quarter). Being a Cardinal fan and being able to take pride in my team is, for me, one of the defining experiences of being a Stanford student. My love of Stanford football has morphed into a love of all football, and I am now more than happy to spend my Sundays, Mondays, and some Thursdays watching my favorite team, the Chargers, play.
It probably goes without saying that my Walkie Talkies have gathered a lot of dust. Whether we’re at home or at the Stanford Stadium, football is now a way for me to spend time with my dad, as we scream, cheer, clench our fists, and jump up and down. While I love the energy of the Red Zone, there’s something special about sitting in the stands with my dad, sharing stories with alumni—“Back in ’55, when USC came to play, we used to chant, ‘Flush the Troilet!’”—and seeing the next generation fans. And I must admit, I look forward to when I can sit there and tell Stanford undergrads about the days of Gerhart, Owusu, Luck, and when we beat USC in the final moments of the game (twice).