Isabella McNutt ’27 is an International Relations and History double major, and she is a member of Alpha Chi Omega. She loves traveling, basketball and music. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.
After posting an Instagram story of the College of William and Mary game against Maine a few weeks ago, my messages flooded with the same question: “Are college football games really like the movies?” This sounds rather absurd to anyone who has ever been to an American football game before because of course it is not like the movies; we are not living in some cheesy rom-com from the early 2000s. But to me, an international student from Budapest, Hungary, this question was not so easy to answer.
On the other side of the ocean, football is a sport where players kick the ball around on an 11-a-side pitch to score goals in massive nets at each end of the field. But it’s different here in the states. Here it’s an obsession. It’s a surreal daydream of dressing up in gold and green and going to tailgates before herds of students flood the stadium to see a series of fumbles, sacks and, hopefully, a touchdown or two. Despite knowing absolutely nothing about football (so much so that I had to ask my friends for “football terms” just to write this piece), I had very high expectations for my first American football game, mainly because of every rom-com that was ever made. The guy scores the winning touchdown, the crowd goes wild and everyone has the time of their life at the game, right? I expected nothing less.
As I made the rainy, somewhat treacherous trek past Crim Dell to Zable Stadium, any hopes I had to live out that football fantasy faded. I became instantly soaked by the downpour as I headed into the deserted student section. It was not at all what I had pictured for my first football game, but what kind of a psycho goes out in a downpour to watch football anyways? So, I couldn’t be too disappointed. From then on, my expectations were low — I would stand in the rain for a little, watch a few plays and head back to my dorm.
My American football experience seemed destined to be bleak — all the way up until the football team rushed onto the field, and I became instantly enchanted by the swarm of players. It was at that moment that I understood why football was so all-encompassing. The game itself, so confusing and violent, was only the beginning of my enjoyment. Game day was filled with fantasy, rom-com-like moments of catching a T-shirt that the dance team threw into the stands, passionate shouting from fans and the infamous pouring of Gatorade onto the winning coach after a victory.
But these moments of pure spirit were interrupted by glimpses of reality. I always knew football, by nature, was a difficult sport. Like any other sport, it is exhausting, both physically and mentally. But football is unique just because of how physically brutal it is. I just never realized the true extent of brutality until I saw a football injury up close. The second an ambulance drove onto the field, I started hearing about the extensive injuries that football players go through in just one season.
Despite the physical risks that football players undertake, we, the fans, watch play after play as our players and their opponents absolutely obliterate one another, and we love it. The hardship of injuries combined with surreal, rom-com moments interconnect to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That’s the part the movies understood: that feeling of excitement and thrill of attending a football game, even when you don’t know the first thing about the game. However, what these directors and writers missed, is the raw emotion that you feel as a student when you watch your classmates give their all on that field. It is that aspect of football that makes the experience all the more sublime.
A football game is much more than the plays, the tackles and the points on the board. It encompasses everything a rom-com makes it out to be and more; it is a truly thrilling once-in-a-lifetime experience like no other. So, yes, football games are just like the movies, and if anything, they might just be a little bit better.