Football is a huge part of American culture.
A vast majority of people, men and women, across the United States use football as a means of social gathering. They get set in a routine during the fall, allotting a good chunk of their day to sit in front of a TV, whether at home or elsewhere, to catch a full day of touchdowns and hard hits from their favorite players and teams.
Thus, the opening kickoff for any football season is special. It is a just cause for anticipatory countdowns, similar to Christmas or New Year’s Day.
But the 2011 football season may have been the most special football kickoff that the National Football League has ever hosted.
Conveniently falling on Sept. 11, the ten year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001, this year’s opening kickoff was about the gathering of American people remembering American heroes while enjoying America’s favorite game.
And it was 100 percent successful.
With former Secretary of State Colin Powell standing by as an honorary captain, the families of fallen heroes, police, firefighters and players joined together to hold a massive flag that spanned the entire length of the field.
It was simply incredible.
In the last few weeks, some throughout the nation claimed that opening the NFL season on Sept. 11 was something of a slap in the face to everything the day now represents. They argued that the players and fans should be at home, spending the day remembering the fallen victems with their own families.
However, being a part of a large crowd is one of the most collectively temporary experiences we have in the U.S. As one of many, even within the modest crowd of the George Mason University Rathskellar, it is easy to lose yourself in the sports atmosphere and in the shared and colliding rooting interests of you and your peers.
It’s the reason why the Anthem is played before every game, the reason sporting arenas and stadiums have become a place to honor soldiers and hold moments of silence for local tragedies. It’s why teams market themselves as a nation of one, as we are all part of the Green and Gold Mason Nation.
Sports doesn’t matter more since the attacks of Sept. 11.
But they have changed.
They matter not as the game itself, but as the gathering and the camaraderie they create for American people.
They simply offer the biggest and best possible spectacle for patriotism, the change to stand up and yell for your team and for the game of football.
And, most of all, for America.