I do it every year, but I can’t stop. It takes weeks out of my summer, alienates my friends and family (notice how I didn’t say “girlfriend”) and usually ends with a breakdown much like the “Comfortably Numb” scene in The Wall, complete with NIN-style shots of maggots and quasi-Teutonic childhood flashbacks. It ain’t pretty. But I do it every year because, well, I have to.
Nothing, nothing, consumes me like editing the rosters for EA Sports’ NCAA Football video game each August. From roughly August 1st until the season kicks off, I do nothing in my spare time except type in names for every player on all 120 Division I football teams. By hand. If anything happens outdoors in the month of August, I probably don’t learn about it unless it’s on television or some one text messages me. And even then I’m pissed because of the distraction.
Of all the sports we cover on this site, I love college football the most. That’s an especially ironic statement since I (like the rest of the gentlemen on this site) am an Indiana University alumnus. I was at IU during the Gerry DiNardo years, so that’s saying something. Even took A361: Coaching of Football from the guy. And I still have the notebook. Gerry freaking DiNardo. I love college football so much, I even go to IU games to watch football, not just tailgate.
Still, nothing stops me from painstakingly entering in each name on every team in the game. 2009 will be the fifth year in a row I’ll do this insane amount of un-fun gaming. But I can’t stop. Every July, I get that itch and know it essentially means the end of my summer. The worst part is: Some sick, twisted part of me likes it.
As most people can attest, the NCAA Football video games are really annoying when, instead of player names, it says, for example, “HB No. 5″ instead of Darren McFadden. I don’t want “HB No. 5″ to run the ball for me. I want Darren motherf-ing McFadden to run the ball for me. As a head coach in dynasty mode, I don’t have time to remember everyone’s numbers. I’m not Hayden Fox, people. I actually like to refer to my players by name. Maybe even a nickname should the appropriate, light-hearted event occur. I always start my coaching “career” at some awful D-I school, so it’s not like I’m going to recognize any of the players on, say, Idaho anyway. And so, using the teams’ official rosters, another set of rosters (usually CBS Sportsline’s), the previous season’s rosters, Scout.com and Rivals.com, I type in every player’s name.
Some people choose their own destiny. Others are chosen for it. I’m not sure which one I am, but I do know that mine is more Greek in nature than a typically structured story. There is no denouement and my obsession consumes me. I’m stuck in an endless cycle of praying Wyoming is the next team up in the lineup, but knowing they aren’t because I can’t find Navy’s fourth-string defensive end anywhere. Damn service academies and their antiquated athletics Web sites. You’d think the freaking military would keep good records of who is playing football for them, but fuck no, that’s too much work, apparently. I’m closer to Sisyphus than the Olsen twins in “Passport to Paris.” Classic movie, by the way.
I’m fully aware there are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of Web sites out there dedicated solely to doing exactly what I do each summer. They have teams of guys and spend more time than even I do on these rosters. Part of my problem is they aren’t good enough for me. I’ve found plenty of mistakes on those rosters. Besides, it’s not enough for me just to have the rosters. I need the suffering, the process, the hand-cramps. It’d be like letting some one else sleep with your girlfriend because, hey, at least the job would be getting done, right? For me, it’s not football season without them, without the suffering. It’s never-ending and, frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On a side note, any site that makes people pay for completed rosters is actually violating NCAA rules and is earning a special place in hell. Usually, I’d say, “who cares? NCAA rules don’t stop Urban Meyer,” but this could lead to the NCAA revoking its licensing agreement with EA Sports, among other things, which would really screw up the NCAA Football video game, as you can imagine.
I realize the only way I’m ever stopping this madness is if EA Sports stops making the game, but you might as well ask me to live without my powerfully-muscled right arm. This year, there’s a potential bug in the new game that makes it freeze and starts to delete whole teams once a certain amount of names have been entered. But that doesn’t make me feel happy or any closer to freedom. My thoughts are only concerned with how I will download the “patch” EA Sports will put out in the next few days so I can get to work.
I fear I may be too far gone to help, friends. Learn from my story and don’t end up like me: maudlin and alone, typing names, letter by letter, into a video game. But always know if you get rosters for NCAA Football ’09 from somewhere, there’s some one like me behind them.
The good news is, I’m pretty sure I can quit any time. I swear.