Preparing for six months of life without football

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Courtesy of Pete Whalon EMPTY: For Pete Whalon and millions of football fans, the culmination of the NFL season also signifies the gloomy end of another action packed season and the beginning of a dreadful six-month stretch without what he considers Ameri

Hello, my name is Pete and I’m a footballoholic! “Hi Pete.” Think of me as a committed alcoholic who can’t have a drink from February thru July.  Although I always look forward to watching the Super Bowl each year, it stirs in me mixed emotions. On the one hand it’s the culmination of the glorious NFL season with the two best teams squaring off once again to decide which team will stand alone as this year’s champion. However, it also signifies the gloomy end of another action packed season and the beginning of a dreadful six month stretch without America’s favorite pastime! That’s right– it surpassed baseball years ago as America’s favorite sport, so deal with it.

As proves the case with any “cold turkey” withdrawal from a controlled substance, I experience the typical symptoms when recovering from football season; irritability, insomnia, despair, cold sweats, hallucinations, nausea and the uncontrollable urge to crack open a cold beer whenever hearing the Star Spangled Banner being sung. Of course, it’s an event I must confront every year at this time, so I’ve developed a few helpful diversions to ease my suffering. Example: Since I bet on the games each Sunday, and it’s almost impossible to win over the long haul, I’ve come up with a unique way to recreate the experience. For the first four Sundays after the season, I make a visit to the end of the Redondo Beach Pier, grab out of my wallet three or four twenty dollar bills and chuck them into the ocean to simulate the football gambling experience. It feels fantastic, and the incredulous looks on the people’s faces who are fishing are priceless.

 Another phenomenon experienced by football junkies such as myself is the need to work our way through the five stages of grief.

One: Denial. For the first few Sunday mornings after the Super Bowl I still turn on the NFL channel believing it will be just another week of football with the hosts discussing the game matchups, injuries and predictions. However, reality strikes immediately as I realize all I will be watching are highlights of the Super Bowl and incessant, inane analysis of every stinking play in the big game. Week after week, picking apart the Seahawk/Patriot game until your head is ready to explode. Whew, I need a moment.

Two: Anger. It’s not long before every Sunday morning while reading the sports section, uncontrollable rage sets in. As you scan the TV sports listings, the fury intensifies. Your selections for the day are golf, cycling, woman’s tennis, college lacrosse and soccer. Ahhhhhhhhhhh! Somebody please wake me up from this nightmare!

Three: Bargaining. “Please, just one more week of football and I’ll never unleash another barrage of profanity when the Bears lose.” “Why did the season end so quickly? Why can’t there be a few more weeks of games?” “If I had only taped some of the games, I could watch them over and over until next season.”  Then you promise yourself that next year you will appreciate each week of the season and not get suicidal when your team stinks worse than a toxic landfill.

Four: Depression. You attempt to disguise from loved ones the fact that each waking day is a living Hell, with a gnawing pain in the pit of your stomach. Unfortunately no food appeals to you and your friends remind you of an irritating, disgusting fly buzzing around your head. And, the only thing that makes you feel remotely normal is watching a DVD of Brian’s Song, Rudy, Jerry Maguire, The Longest Yard (the original with Bert Reynolds) or Friday Night Lights. Next September feels light years away.

Five: Acceptance. Then, around mid-March to early April, miraculously you begin to cheer up a little. French fries taste good again, the NFL draft is only weeks away and preseason football is a little over four months from now. Maybe I’ll even call all my friends to apologize for being such a jerk the past six weeks. The sun is shining…I want to live!

If you live with or are close to a football addict, it’s a grueling process that requires your patience and understanding. Some fortunate souls rapidly advance through the essential progression in a matter of weeks. However, for many stricken fanatics it drags out until late May or early June. May I offer a little advice for those who are new to this devastating intense compulsion? Do not bring up the subject of football at any time in any form until the patient is fully recovered. But most important of all, never ridicule or openly laugh if you find him curled in the fetal position with a football tucked tightly under his arm.

Preparing for six months of life without football