On Friday, myself and up to 200 other guys are going to take the entire day off work, school, and responsibility in general in order to spend it playing made-up games like Bucketball and Biggun Bounce, have a waterballoon fight, host a dodgeball tournament, build a tree fort, and ride mountain bikes into the ocean off of this giant homemade ramp: (might wanna turn your volume down a bit)
We call it Reclamation of Youth Day, and it's something my buddy Caleb and I started 11 years ago as an annual reminder to tap back into what it means to be a 10 year old kid. For us, that means riding your bike everywhere, no drinking, no smoking, minimal swearing, lots of candy and Slurpees, not hanging out with (but maybe throwing rocks at) slimy girls, and running around barefoot; all in hopes of ending the day feeling like Calvin and Hobbes:
CALVIN: "My elbows are grass-stained, I've got sticks in my hair, I'm covered with bug bites and scratches, I've got sand in my socks and leaves in my shirt, my hands are sticky with sap, and my shoes are soaked! I'm hot, dirty, sweaty, itchy, and tired."
HOBBES: "I say consider this day seized!"
CALVIN: "Tomorrow we'll seize the day and throttle it!"
RYD is the single best day of my year, an 18-hour ode to boyhood that exhausts our bodies and rejuvenates our souls -- it is simple, boisterous, and elegant. Shedding the mortal coil of adult responsibility is an invigorating feeling, even if it only lasts for a short while.
Fandom has, for me at least, followed a similar arc. When I was a kid, cheering for the Seahawks was just something you did, like playing tag or blowing up GI Joes with firecrackers. The wins were awesome, the losses sucked, and I had little to no idea what any of them meant in the big picture outside of the pendulous swings my heart made from game to game.
As I've grown up, both as a man and as a sports fan, I've gotten smarter, gained more perspective, and think more critically than I did when I was 10. In many ways, this is a good and natural progression; we must mature as we age, afterall, there's no sense in staying like a boy when life calls you to become a man. There is, however, collateral damage of a sort that happens as this process takes place, a kind of calcification of the raw nerves that were once shamelessly exposed to the thrills and heartbreaks of life.
Watching Seahawks games is something of an alternate experience now, compared to when I was younger. The vibrancy accompanying each play doesn't disappear per say, but it begins to get replaced by a steelier, almost jaded analytical sense; just like, say, the joy of eating a Whatchamacallit hasn't completely gone away but is rather overshadowed by a grown-up awareness of its caloric content and knowing that it'll make your teeth hurt. Oh yeah, we shut 'em down! has become Sure, it's great that Alex Smith's pass was broken up by Brandon Browner, but Browner was beat deep and is really just lucky that ball was underthrown. Again, growing up isn't a bad thing, it's just a different thing, and its largely irreversible.
Unless we force the issue. It is possible to turn back the clocks in our hearts, to willfully revisit the mindset of being young and eager, but at this point in most of our lives, it's something that requires effort. The good news is that as a fan, opportunities to do this are fairly ubiquitous. Heck you can start right now! I mean, there's no better time to give in to the grandeur of what might be than when you're a little over a month away from the start of the season.
There will be ample time over the next few months to argue over who the starting quarterback should be or whether Bruce Irvin was the right pick; but right now, when the NFL meter is still a mere tremble -- right now is the time to be a fan simply for the sake of being one. We're not passionate about the Seahawks because we like grumbling about a coaching decision or mashing our keyboards in frustration when a receiver drops a pass, those are just the symptoms of fanhood.
No, we're passionate about the Seahawks because cheering for them elevates our spirits, lifts us out of ourselves and into a giant collective of like-hearted brethren. Rooting for the 'Hawks puts us in great company, it unites us with literally millions of other people who share a common hope. About how many other things in our lives can we honestly say that about?
It's so easy to lose sight of that wanton, joyous fervor when you let yourself get caught up in the minutiae of your favorite team. Hell, I'm as guilty of that as anyone. The day to day roster churns and message board arguments chip away at that exuberance. We're susceptible to spending much of our remaining fanhood that way; but for right now, and for as long as you can muster, stay in touch with the little kid inside you that just spilled juice on his replica Steve Largent jersey and can't wait to tell his friends about that one play that one guy made -- he's a good kid.
~Editor's Note: Here's how RYD 2012 went!~
RYD 2012 (via Joe Tobiason)
~~Oh, and if you want to join us on Friday, go HERE~~