we all love football

we just don’t know it yet

During the first week of the semester, I shopped a sportswriting class. The room was packed wall-to-wall with 50 people—mostly men—vying for just 17 spots. I’ve never seen so much muscle in an English classroom. The professor gave his spiel, and cracked a few jokes about Ohio State (apparently they just won some big game??) along the way. Most of the references went right over my head; I looked around in confusion while my fellow shoppers chuckled in unison.

Growing up in a family with far more interest in fresh powder than pigskin, the idea of caring about football never really occurred to me. I don’t have a team, and I’m still not clear on most of the rules of play. What is a down? Why do the big sticks sometimes get you one point and sometimes two? These are the questions that plague me. The idea of actually watching a live game of football, which seems to involve a lot more waiting around than it does actual playing, is pretty daunting.

But in my own way, I am a huge football fan. It all started the first time I watched Remember the Titans. I laughed, I cried, and I fell in love with the drama of the sport. I loved that it made corniness acceptable. I teared up at motivational speeches that would usually make me scoff. I then watched as many football movies as I could find, and relished their ability to make our life problems (Who am I? What’s the meaning of life? Is it better to win or to play the game well?) apply perfectly to a carnage-filled sporting event. Plus, I love that they skip all the boring stuff and get straight to the touchdowns.

Most recently, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time watching the television show Friday Night Lights. I spent my winter break watching all five seasons, cheering for the Dillon Panthers (and then later, of course, the Lions), pining after Tim Riggins, and tearing up every time Vince Howard hugged his mom. I found myself speaking with just the slightest hint of a Texas accent and thinking I might sell my station wagon to get a big truck. There’s only one episode left, and I can’t bring myself to watch it. The idea of saying goodbye to all my friends in Dillon is simply too hard to handle.

So with the Super Bowl almost upon us, I’m happy to say that I’m excited. I’m excited because I now know that football is about more than just a game: It’s about community and tradition.

I’ll probably get bored after 10 minutes of play, and I’ll probably still be confused about the rules. But I want to see crazy Seahawks fans go red in the face from yelling. I want to see Tom Brady throw a 99-yard pass and then casually blow a kiss to Gisele. And I want to eat delicious gameday food like nachos, beer, and chili.

In the words of the great coach Eric Taylor: “You love the game of football. You just don’t know it yet.” If you don’t yet love football, hopefully you’ll at least like this chili.

Super Bowl Turkey Chili

¼ cup olive oil

2 onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots, diced

3 pounds ground turkey breast

6 tbsp chili powder, give or take depending on your spice tolerance

1 tbsp cumin

2 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp dried coriander

1 tbsp dried oregano

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp red pepper flakes

2 cups tomato sauce

1 ¼ cup chicken broth or dark beer

1 ¾ cups kidney beans, rinsed

2 bell peppers, chopped

Salt to taste

Sour cream and shredded cheese

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and cook until soft, then add garlic and carrots. Add turkey, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is browned. Add chili, cumin, paprika, coriander, oregano, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes.

Most chili connoisseurs would scoff at a chili made with tomato sauce, but I’m a novice, and this chili is based loosely on bolognaise. I still think it’s delicious, but if you want to be more traditional, you can skip this step and add a few tablespoons of tomato paste when you cook the onions. If you’re sticking with me, add the tomato sauce and broth. If you are a badass who likes the idea of putting beer in your chili, more power to you. A lot of people say this is the key to good chili, and I can’t deny it’s a flavorful addition. If you do decide to go this route, do yourself a favor and don’t go pouring Natty Light in your pot—go with something a little heftier and darker.

Simmer for about 30 minutes, then add the beans, peppers, and salt. Simmer until the peppers are tender. Serve with sour cream and shredded cheese. Cheer for the Pats, or just enjoy.

Serves 6.