Football fans will do crazy things for the game they love, including driving for days to get to a game, placing bets and even getting tattoos of their favorite team’s logo. Similarly, football season leads some fathers to do something they would otherwise find terrifying — show affection.
However, it’s never aimed at their wives, children or any other close family member. Instead, dads show affection to men they’ve never met by wearing the last names of their favorite players on their backs. Or, as is often the case, the name of the player whose jersey went on sale because they got traded for a box of Milk Duds.
During the Sept. 18 Packers vs. Bears game, I sat in the family room of Mike Anders. Anders, the father of second and seventh grade boys, sported a Davante Adams jersey. He explained the emotional connection.
“I know Adams is on the Raiders now, but man, he gave me some special memories on the Packers. I like to think that by continuing to wear this jersey, a little piece of him stays with me,” said the 40-year-old sales supervisor.
“During his rookie year, his hands were so bad that I wanted him to be traded to the Bears. But my relationship with him has grown over the years to where I really respect the guy,” said Anders as he tugged the bottom of his jersey as if that would get the wrinkles out.
Anders’ wife was not home at the time of the interview, as he said he would “never be that vulnerable in front of the mother of [his] children.”
During the second quarter, Anders was in a jovial mood. The Packers were dominating and everything was looking up. After an Aaron Jones touchdown, the beaming fan walked to the refrigerator to get a fresh Bud Light.
That’s when his eight-year-old son ran down the stairs to give him a big hug. Anders’ hackles went up.
“Uh…hey, buddy. Whatcha doing?” questioned Anders, prompting his son to hug him tighter.
In response, Anders slapped his son’s back like an old college buddy before turning away and walking across the kitchen.
After opening a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos, Anders offered some chips to his eager-for-affection son. There was love in the way the bag was held out. It was almost as if a light went off behind Anders’ eyes, chuffed to be providing for his family in the form of snacks his wife bought on sale from Hy-Vee.
I asked Anders about his emotional connection to his youngest son.
“Oh, you know, he’s a pretty good kid. Almost old enough for youth football — one more year. I bet he starts at running back. He can already keep up with those third graders pretty damn well.”
At the conclusion of the game, Anders washed his special Packers beer mug, which he drinks from each week. He was careful not to leave any spot uncleaned or water droplets undried. He delicately placed the mug face down in the same spot he always does, ensuring that it’s ready for the next game.
Then, realizing it was after 10 p.m., he called up the stairs to ask his kids if they brushed their teeth and were in bed. He took their word for it.