I have debated the merits of Kirk versus Picard, and more importantly, the merits of Joel versus Mike. In junior high, I asked for — and received — Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time for my birthday, read it, and was convinced that I was going to be a theoretical physicist or a cosmologist when I grew up. I have debated the merits of various and sundry video game systems, microchips, and computer operating systems.
I enjoy learning all manner of minutiae, from the biographies and specs of G.I. Joe characters to the continuity differences between Robotech and Macross, from the history and mythology of Star Wars to the various iterations and discographies of countless bands and musicians. I enjoy discussing the filmmaking styles and aesthetics of Andrei Tarkovsky, Robert Bresson, Hayao Miyazaki, Sergei Eisenstein, and John Woo. I get a little giddy reading HTML5 and CSS3 specifications. And I kick ass on the Lord of the Rings edition of Trivial Pursuit.
In other words, I am a nerd and I’m very proud of it. In fact, I’d like to think of myself as a fairly big nerd. However, there is a nerdery that, in all likelihood, exceeds mine by several orders of magnitude. And that is the nerdery of football fans. That’s right: fans of football — the protoypical “jock” sport, the practitioners of which have been the bane of nerds throughout the ages — are themselves nerds, pure and simple.
I live in Lincoln, Nebraska, one of the biggest college football towns in the U.S. and home to the Cult of Cornhusker. As autumn approaches, bringing with it the first game of the season, the city grows increasingly frenzied. And on that first game day, rivers of people clad in red flood into Memorial Stadium — the high temple, if you will — turning it into the third largest “city” in the state of Nebraska, behind Omaha and Lincoln. It’s really an impressive sight, even for a non-fan, er, non-nerd.
While game day is an impressive display of nerdery, it’s really during the non-game days that you see the true nerdery in action. For this is when the fans — or the “faithful”, as they are sometimes called — discuss the game that was played and the games to come, and do so by employing a mind-boggling battery of stats, analytical tools, arcane algorithms and formulas, anecdotes, historical records, and spiteful jabs at the other teams — all in order to assess the status of the Huskers and their chances for ultimate victory.
The debates that I see at lunch and read on Facebook would make the most ardent Kirk/Picard debater doff their cap in admiration. The amount of minutiae that such folks can bring to bear would make any walking encyclopedia of Doctor Who or Dungeons & Dragons lore stand up and salute.
I say all of this, not out of spite, vitriol, or jealousy. Rather, I do so that my football-loving friends — those who can’t quite believe that I really do enjoy watching three or four subtitled arthouse movies in a day, and yet have no problem watching 8 straight hours of football — may realize and embrace their nerdery. And realize that, while sitting there in Memorial Stadium all clad in red and surrounded by tens of thousands of others who are dressed likewise, they’re really aren’t all that dissimilar from folks like these: