I grew up with brothers, four of them actually, and no sisters. But instead of knowing all the ins and outs of American Football, from living in a house of boys, I knew next to nothing of the game. I think it stemmed from seeing the guys and their friends watching a game, sitting down with them, and then trying to understand by asking tooooo many questions. Their aggression and “Shut Up” that they threw my way turned me off from learning much.
I never played football, so I didn’t learn it all at practice! The immature boys that they were didn’t have patience to help get me into the game and from elementary school till middle school, I don’t think I ever watched a full game.
I remember to this day, a conversation I had with a friend in third grade. I asked her, “Do you ever watch football?” “Yeah sometimes with my Dad.” “How do you know who to cheer for?” “I don’t know, I usually just cheer for whoever is losing because I feel bad for them.” I tried to take her advice, but I still didn’t get the perfect formations of men facing each other, charging into chaotic dog piles seconds later!
The first football game I watched the whole way through was the Patriots vs. Eagles Super Bowl game in February 2005. I was with my Dad traveling out of the country; that whole day he scouted out places and talked to locals about where to watch the game and to be honest I thought it was fun! I’ve made it a point to take part in whatever super bowl parties I could crash with friends through the years, but only because I’m an American and the Super Bowl is like a religion in the US.
But I still didn’t ask questions through all those years of Super Bowl parties.
I learned my lesson years before; you don’t get between a man and his game, unless you want to be yelled at.
Sad, but true.
After a year of networking to get my foot in the door for TV Production, I finally “settled” to look locally in the small town I’m from, State College, PA. Through friendly connections, I got an interview at WPSU for Sports Production. During the interview, the Producer asked me two questions I for sure thought would get me kicked off the site in a hot second.
“Wow, you have a lot of experience in production, we have students that come here with nothing. How much do you know about football?”
“Ha ha. Ummm. I know what a touch down is!”
“So not much?”
I shook my head, smiling, hoping to win him over still. “But I can learn! See, I have four brothers, I could sit down with any one of them and go over game stuff!” Really though, I was dubious with the flash backs from all the traumatic times I tried getting my football questions answered by the boys in the past.
But he didn’t have to know that.
“It really just comes down to vocabulary!” I persisted. “I’ve grown up around sports.” (True) “I’ve watched enough to know what’s important in a game. It’s all about vocabulary, and I’ll learn.”
He smiled at me. The interview continued. I left concerned.
That night I sat down to watch the episodes he emailed to me, from three sports shows that WPSU produces. After watching, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose and I emailed him exactly what I think of the shows and football… That there’s a lot more to the game (football, basketball, soccer, you name the sport) than just being on the field playing; there are players, coaches, and other aspects of their lives that are more important than just being an athlete.
The next day, the Producer emailed me to let me know I would be brought into WPSU as a Sports Production Intern to work on the show Unrivaled: The Penn State Football Story.
I’ve watched more games this season than the previous 6 years combined. At Beaver Stadium, I’ve stood on the field with players, coaches, and ESPN and BTN press. On my down time, I study the Penn State football players, and watch the shows we produce. I get a little bit tickled each game to watch the boys play and see how they do. And as I promised in that interview, I’m learning my vocabulary.
It’s all paying off, as 6 weeks into the internship I found out some pretty great news about my status of “Intern.”
But that story is for another time.
I’m putting the work in, seeing the results, and quite honestly, I’m proud of how I’ve embraced my time at WPSU. By working there, I see State College through a whole new lens, and this football season, I’m actually into it! The disdain for the school and people that obsess over their Blue and White team has ebbed away to appreciate the culture of college football everywhere, and to be proud to be a part of a certain PSU football show.
I’m learning that if you give something enough time, you might surprise yourself with what you come to appreciate… For too long I held the sport and Penn State at arms length, creating a very effective wedge between the people in this town and myself. My tastes buds are changing so that a game and a beer sound appealing. Except minus the beer. My taste buds aren’t changing that much, let’s not get crazy.
What was originally a last resort and shot in the dark, application and production interview, has turned into a new perspective, relationships, and way of life for me in State College… Oh, and I’m no longer afraid to ask questions.
What have you pushed away, that you could practice being open to, which might further your career, or simply create bonds with others?
Episode 6 from this season: