First off, let me admit that I am a die hard college football fan. Nothing gets to me quite like a cool Saturday in November, rain pelting the windows, watching a game that has important championship consequences.  I know marketers dream of people like me, because on those days I MUST order take out pizza and indulge in chips. Mind you, I never order pizzas nor eat chips in front of the television but it just SEEMS and FEELS like the right thing to do on those November and December Saturdays.

There are some buddies of mine who text me, call me, or sit and watch various games and we hoot and holler like we’re 20 year olds, heavily vested in the outcomes of the games. Of course, some of my friends ARE vested in the games, talking about spreads and the works. I thought those were culinary terms until I realized the penchant 30-somethings have for gambling. That heightens the interest in the game and takes the intensity up a notch. Me, I am not a gambler.

In fact, I am a closet nail biter. When my team gets down, I get insanely pessimistic to the point that I cannot even bear watching the game. I once scheduled a dinner date when my team was playing, so I could avoid watching the first half. I knew they were visiting a good team in a hostile environment and it was a night game. So I asked my friend to pick the place, knowing she’d never pick a sports bar, and I’d be safe, missing and not thinking of the first half.

To my utter horror when we arrived for dinner at the pizza place all TVs were on and blasting out the game I’d just mentioned. Furthermore, my team was already trailing by 14 points in the first 5 minutes. I almost went nuts. In the middle of it, I thought there must be something wrong with me, caring so much about the outcome of a game. Is there anything wrong with grown men emotionally attached to their teams, in the way their significant others would only wish to experience, getting down when their team is losing or loses the game?

I’m embarrassed to admit but at age 13 or 14,  I would sit in front of the radio or television and pray that on third down the Cowboys would get the first and that they would win. Back in the days before the internet, for those of us old enough to remember, I was living in Europe and recall listening to a Radio Free Europe broadcast of the Cowboys-Redskins game. It must have been 3 in the morning and Dallas lost on a last second field goal and I wanted to die. I cried myself to sleep because my heroes had lost. What would you tell your child about such an intense attachment to their team? Is it a good thing?

I’m pretty much in the middle on whether it’s good or bad to be so attached to outcomes. There’s something about such intensity that fuels our fire – gives us another reason to live. That means something, doesn’t it? Maybe so, but when my good friend reported what happened last year, after Tony Romo fumbled the infamous field goal snap, it made me stop and rethink my position.

She had a date that night and her date called her and said he couldn’t get over the loss and was too upset to make it to dinner with her. No kidding – this is a true story. She was pretty steamed over the whole thing but what she got about it and shared with me opened my eyes. It wasn’t that she held it against the guy for being upset, but what she saw was a 30-something guy who might not ever grow up. I saw her side – who wants to potentially marry a guy who goes up and down emotionally according to the success or failure of his team? That might be a tough environment for raising kiddos, when dad goes AWOL after a debilitating loss. And if you’re prone to live in a city or root for a college, which historically loses the BIG ONES, well you’re outta luck. You’re hubby is destined to a life of intestinal upheaval and possible emergency room visits after those last second losses.

I recently read this article: PORTAGE, Wis. (Jan. 16) – Upset that his 7-year-old son wouldn’t wear a Green Bay Packers jersey during the team’s playoff victory Saturday, a man restrained the boy for an hour with tape and taped the jersey onto him.

So where’s the happy medium in all this? When is being a fan healthy or is it just another way to “exit” life for a few hours and make those around you miserable? Is it so harmless to see grown men preparing for games like warriors, putting on their team jerseys, painting their faces like Braveheart and setting up snack trays and passing the ritual along to their offspring? Is it part of being male – that sacred place where women simply know not to tread, or is it childish and silly?

It’s the sheer pleasure of the ups and downs that satisfies the ultimate fan – knowing that winning or losing isn’t the point. To the ultimate fan, the ultimate point is to cheer for the sake of cheering and after your team loses, wear that jersey to dinner and keep your dates. At the restaurant, you smile at that guy sitting at the table next to you. You know the one I mean. It’s the guy wearing the same team jersey. Watch how he smiles back, because you both know that you’re dying inside since your team lost the national championship. No one else needs to know because in that moment only another ultimate fan can relate to you.  “Pass the ketchup dear.” Of course you do. The ultimate fan is the one who simply enjoys the sport of sporting, the game of gaming and the thrill of being thrilled. And besides, there’s always next year.