Growing up in a village (literally, it’s officially a chartered village) in Western New York State, I didn’t have much in common with most people in the community. My family was one of 4 Asian families in town. Most people my age hadn’t even heard of the country from which my parents hail, Korea (the Forgotten War, indeed). We were non-religious in a place with 4 churches that dominated the quaint downtown square on...you guessed it...Church Street. We were white collar in a predominantly blue collar/rural region.
But one thing I had in common with everyone else was my love for the Buffalo Bills, the NFL team that played in a stadium a located a scant 45 minutes northeast. During football season, our school walls were plastered with articles and photos on the Bills from the local newspapers. We had mini pep rallies where each class had to make up a song to go with a different player. A particularly catchy one my fourth grade class came up with went, “Andre Reed, he’s number 83! When the ball gets thrown, he’s sure to receive!”
I know. We were so clever.
In the early 90s, my family moved to Buffalo itself, right in the midst of the Bills glory days when they, as everyone probably already knows, made it to four consecutive Super Bowls, but didn’t manage to win one. In the years since, as life has taken me 2500 miles away from my hometown, my attachment to the Bills has never waned, despite their current ignominy as a team in the throes of a 13 year playoff drought, the longest in the NFL.
A strange thing happened though, something that I never expected. While I was always a fan of the Buffalo Bills, the football team, I was not necessarily a fan of football, the sport itself. But, with the help of my SHO, who understands football in a way that I never will, I’ve grown to appreciate its complexity, its strategy, its status as the ultimate team sport, its unabashedly arrogant theatrics, its history, and its place in our country’s history, both as a pastime and microcosm of American culture and society.
Unfortunately for me, the football season, both for college and the NFL, is relatively short, the regular season spanning only four months from September through January.
Fortunately for me, in addition to the countless number of football documentaries available on Netflix (Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is a particular favorite of mine), there is a plethora of books on football for me to read during the off-season. This is especially handy now, when every other sport that I enjoy is also on hiatus, a convergence affectionately known as Laura’s Summer Sports Slump.
A lot of books on football are more akin to reference guides, covering stats and exciting topics like the development of the West Coast Offense. However, my favorites, as follows, are the ones that aren’t just about football, but about the special, everyday moments that make up life.
Just like FNL.