I resisted them. I'd made it through nearly four seasons without attending a football game and had not yet felt the lack. Generally, I am not a football fan - and I knew even less of the game in high school than I do today.
But my friends insisted. It was a high school experience I should have.
I still disputed them. My high school experience was not particularly normal in any sense. I felt no need to pretend it was.
They informed me that there was only one game left in the season, and I needed to support my school.
I said I had no school spirit. My school was actually two schools sharing a campus; we had classes in both with people from both and were only separate for administrative things and sports teams. So my attachment to Canton, my own school, was not particularly strong. Salem had better pep rallies (which I attended because I got out of class), and better sports teams overall (but I'd never seen them play). The final game of each football season was the Canton v. Salem game, and Salem had won for 17 consecutive years.
My friends ignored my protests. They informed me that I was going to attend the final game of the season. They informed me I was going to support Canton.
I tried to plead that one of my good buddies since Kindergarten played for Salem, but my friends would not allow me to root for the "other" team. They dragged me to the game, and I determined I would be neutral.
I really can't remember much of the actual game. I remember the cold. I remember walking up into the stands. I remember looking down at the field from above and seeing the teams stretched out in formation below me. However, understanding none of the rules of the sport at that point in my life, all I saw was a line of blue and a line of red running into each other at regular intervals. But slowly, as the temperature dropped, the numbers on the Canton side of the scoreboard rose.
And, as the moments of the game ticked away, I found myself growing agitated, interested, and even, dare I say it, excited that Canton was winning. I looked down at the blue Salem bench and spotted my friend's number on a jersey. I had a moment of divided loyalties, but as the crowd grew noisier, I discovered something: I had school spirit.
When the final whistle blew, I cheered and yelled and smiled and laughed with the Canton fans as I watched my friend fall to his knees as his team lost the game for the first time in 18 years.
Yesterday, I didn't get to watch the whole US game. I had to go to lunch with friends who are coming as students next year. As I stood in line for the cafeteria, one of PBU's soccer players was checking people in. A small crowd had formed around her - some with responsibilities, others just hanging. I came up to the table to scan my card, and one of the crowd was giving commentary: "They're still down 2-1." She glanced at her phone. "No! Wait! They tied!"
The soccer player cheered, and nearly lost count of the people in line. And I, scanning my card and turning in, felt that strange stirring within my heart once again. I missed the controversial recall of the 3rd US goal, but when I looked it up later I felt a little outrage deep inside.
These feelings make little sense to my brain. After all, I'm rooting for England, right? But, if the US continues to do well, I might just discover that deeply hidden "school" spirit once again.