Sports column: Sometimes, you have to take time to just be a fan

Published 12:31 pm Sunday, November 12, 2023

One of the professional hazards of being a sports writer is that you tend to lose some of your passion for sports.

The job requires you to maintain an even keel. Even if you’ve been a fan of the team you cover since birth, it’s important to detach yourself from that emotion to do the job your paid for. Over time, repeating that process for weeks and months and years on end beats the fandom out of you.

So a couple of months ago, when I was offered tickets to last weekend’s LSU-Alabama football game in Tuscaloosa, my initial reaction was excitement followed by, “Well, I don’t know …”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

I described it to friends as the same reaction Lou Brown had when offered the chance to manage the Cleveland Indians in the movie “Major League.” Except instead of having a guy on the phone about some whitewalls, I had a dozen logistical issues flowing through my head.

It was a three-hour drive each way. I had to work late covering football on Friday night. Who knew what time the game would start? Did the tickets come with a parking pass, or would we have to park in Demopolis and walk the rest of the way?

In my younger days I often worked late on Friday and drove to Baton Rouge or Starkville or Oxford first thing Saturday morning to watch or cover a game. I’ve literally walked a mile, uphill both ways (my preferred parking spot and the stadium are atop two separate hills), to cover Alcorn State vs. Jackson State in Jackson.

It was troubling. The tickets and parking pass were gifts. The game was at night. All I had to do was get my wife and I to Bryant-Denny Stadium. And still I was hesitant. It made me feel old and beaten down, even though I rarely think of myself that way.

Eventually, I came to my senses and I’m glad I did. Even though I’d covered several dozen college football games over the years, the last one I’d been to as a fan was in 2006. I’d forgotten how much fun the entire day can be.

As an LSU alum I’m certainly no Alabama fan, but I enjoyed seeing their gameday traditions and experiencing a night in a massive stadium with a loud and festive crowd. Hearing the national anthem sung by 100,000 people is always a wonderful moment.

The noise reportedly peaked at 113 decibels. My voice was hoarse by the end of the night, not from cheering — LSU lost 42-28 and there wasn’t much to cheer about as the game slipped away in the second half — but from yelling in my wife’s ear to be heard. Hearing my gravelly throat struggling to form words late that night brought a smile to my face.

We saw fun things like former Alabama running back Sherman Williams hawking autographs at a tent a block off of campus, and some fashion trends that brought out the, “Back in our day, we never wore that” sentiments.

It wasn’t just a fun day, it was an important day. Do any job long enough, even something fun, and it takes the joy out of it. Reminding yourself why you got into it in the first place is something we all need to do from time to time.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

email author More by Ernest