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My Year as a 'Remote' Worker

For the first time in 60 years, I traded crowds for the clicker and spent the home games at home. Here’s what I learned from a season spent watching all my football with my feet up.

You could call it an experiment in social behavior. Or a chance to be like everybody else for a change. Or maybe I was just tired and the recliner and remote were calling to me.

Whatever the reason, I made it through my self-imposed year of exile. And now I have a new way of looking at a college football season.

Ever since I was a little boy (no, they were not wearing leather helmets) I have been going to football games. I saw my first in 1962, a 22-3 Florida win over Auburn. It was overcast. (That I remember, but I forgot to pick up green onions for my wife the other day.)

Since that first one 60 years ago, I have seen at least one game every year. Mostly the Gators, but there was the NFL and USFL and WFL and college games all over the country. There was one calendar year when I went to 52 games, one for each week. Most of them I covered for newspapers, some I took my Dad to, some I just went to because I wanted to watch football.

Football is my passion to a fault. I have been known to sit in a recliner for 12 hours with only breaks for food, beer and the 11 steps to the bathroom (I counted). And because I covered the Gators until I retired from newspaper work in December 2020, I went to every game – home and away – for 17 years. That’s a lot of hot dogs, watered down sodas and frequent flier miles.

So I made a conscious decision that after six decades of seeing at least one football game in person every year, I would go cold turkey. Unlike John Lennon, it never did get me “on the run.” In fact, it was kind of freeing.

But that doesn’t mean it was easy.

For one thing, I could almost feel the energy of the Swamp from miles away, even in our little neighborhood where the occasional bark of a dog is startling. There was an almost spiritual connection to the screaming fans.

Still, I made it. I didn’t see one game in person all season. Not surprisingly, there were good things and bad about my experiment in self-denial:

What I Didn’t Miss

Crowds. Those hot, sticky September games trying to get through a sea of orange and blue.

I didn’t miss travel. Especially to places like Starkville, Miss., where I once made it to the front of the airport line just as someone came over the walkie-talkie and drawled, “Uhhh, this plane’s broke.”

Those $12 beers in the airports of America will not be missed. Neither will those 4 a.m. wake-up calls to save money on a flight only to have it delayed because someone else overslept.
(To be fair, I wouldn’t have been going to any of those away games anyway since nobody was supplying transportation, meals and lodging.)

But home games in the cathedral where my fixation with college football was born and nurtured? Dude, certainly you would go to one game?

But I didn’t. I was tempted – and I was vaxxed – but I still wanted to see what a year without going to a game would be like.

Turns out, the thing I didn’t miss during this year in exile? I didn’t miss games. You know, the big ones. I almost broke down and went to the Florida-FSU game, but Ohio State-Michigan was at the same time, so I said goodbye to my wife (she still went) and lowered myself into the La-Z-Boy.

That was something I used to fantasize about: being able to watch everything college football had to offer instead of hoping someone in the press box was willing to put the best game of the day on. (Little known secret: at many stadiums, the game being played on the field is the only one that is shown on multiple TVs. They have to keep us focused on the field, I guess.)

What I Did Miss

The sounds coming at you from every direction. The chatter before the game as the fans file into the stadium. The groaning when things aren’t going well for the Gators. The roars of big plays for the home team. The bands. And oh, did I miss “I Won’t Back Down.”

I missed seeing the whole field. One thing I learned was that TV spends more time on silly promotions and fans mugging for the cameras than it does on what’s happening on the field. That was always the best part of being in the press box. You could see a play develop. When Feleipe Franks heaved that pass to Tyrie Cleveland against Tennessee in 2017, you could see Cleveland breaking free before Franks thought about letting the ball go.

I missed the energy of the press box for a big game. You find out so much about the team Florida is playing by talking to other beat writers and columnists.

I missed that walk through the crowd to get to the field and then the pressroom, running into fans who wanted to talk about what they just saw. I missed in-person interviews. I haven’t done one since COVID changed sports in 2020.

I missed watching coaches on the sideline and seeing the body language of players after a good or bad play.

I missed all of those cheesy presentations on the field during time-outs, because those are way better than the same five commercials playing during every break.

I missed the Mr. Two Bits routine. And the teams running on the field.

Yep, I missed a lot. And I’ll be back. Utah. Opening day for Billy Napier. Because in the end, I missed more than I didn’t miss.