My Journey from Fan to Fanatic

My Journey from Fan to Fanatic

Finding an escape in football

Prior to my sarcoidosis diagnosis, the National Football League (NFL) got my attention once a year when the Super Bowl aired. That only changed if my hometown team had a shot of making it to the big game; then, I would tune in for the playoffs leading up to it.

As my sarcoidosis progressed, however, so did my interest in football because I discovered it brought a welcome distraction from my health issues, as well as other unexpected benefits. When the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons take the field Thursday for the league’s first pre-season game of the year, my insufferably long wait for football’s return will be over. 

From casual fan to fanatic

My crossover from casual fan to “don’t me bother during games unless it’s football-related” began in 2011. I started tuning into Sunday games as a means of fighting back against the debilitating fatigue, pain, and dizziness that were keeping me stuck in bed most days. Often, I was too sick to even sit up and watch. I would lie in bed listening to games, drifting in and out of sleep. But I kept at it. I set my alarm each week to wake in time to turn on Sunday games, most of which I slept through.

As the season wore on, though, I started to find myself increasingly drawn from sleep by the roar of fans and frenzied play-by-play commentary during close games. I would prop myself up and watch. In that moment, when the game was on the line, nothing else mattered. It was a beautiful escape, however brief, from the emotional, physical, and financial toll of living with a chronic illness. With 32 teams battling it out, in 16 games each, for a shot at the playoffs and then the Super Bowl, such moments abound.

Gridiron glory

Before long, if an NFL game was on — be it Sunday, Monday, Thursday, or the odd Saturday — I was watching. There’s a reason crime dips during televised sporting events. Watching games brings psychological benefits along with it. You get an emotional high when your favorite team wins, but even dreaded losses provide game-length escapes from the pressures and worries of life.

Watching football helps in my efforts to be more social by inspiring game talk and more contact with not only family and friends, but strangers. Research shows that just talking about sports improves language skills. Football fans aren’t hard to find living in Pennsylvania, where two teams (Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers) rank in the top five on this year’s NFL Fandom Report.  

Never-ending story

Following football’s ever-changing landscape (wins, losses, injuries, and other statistics) also gives me a cognitive workout, which helps in my struggles with brain fog. Watching the physical feats of elite athletes competing for wins, which can be a workout in and of itself, also motivates me in my own fitness goals. While all your favorite television shows eventually come to an end, sometimes with a finale you despise, with football there’s always a new season to watch and to hang your hopes on if the previous one didn’t turn out the way you wanted.

Geaux Saints!

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Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.

Athena Merritt was a journalist for 20 years until her prolonged battle with sarcoidosis forced her out of work. As she rebuilds her life, she hopes to bring humor, inspiration and knowledge to others in the process.
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Athena Merritt was a journalist for 20 years until her prolonged battle with sarcoidosis forced her out of work. As she rebuilds her life, she hopes to bring humor, inspiration and knowledge to others in the process.

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