I didn’t realize it then, but he was setting me up.
Later he admitted to reading it every chance he got. Studying. Formulas, strategies, all of it. By season three, he cleaned my clock. Our father soon inserted himself into the competition, which, over the past almost 20 years, came to represent our relationship: We went from being a dysfunctional trio of man-children who didn’t have the language to express our feelings to discovering that our mutual love of competition and one-upmanship gave us the language we needed to reconnect.
And then came the coronavirus.
As of June, in response to concerns over the coronavirus, the N.C.A.A. Division I Football Oversight Committee announced their approval of a plan that would allow teams to transition from voluntary workouts to mandatory meetings and preseason camps — just like any other year. But by the end of July, five Division I conferences had canceled their seasons outright. Others, in a last-ditch effort to play something in 2020, are leaning toward playing “conference only” or “plus one” schedules to minimize travel and mitigate risk. The closer we got to August, the more it seemed that Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been clear in his position from the outset, may have been right after all: “Football may not happen this year.”
My little brother and I remain hopeful that won’t be the case. Five years apart, we were never especially close. Growing up, I’d put him through the wringer.
When I was 8, and he was 3, I nearly took his eye out with a dead tree branch. He still has a scar above his brow. In high school, my friends and I would wrestle him to the ground, strip him down to his Fruit of the Looms, force him onto the front lawn, and make him run around the block in his skivvies before we let him back in the house. He still delights in telling that story to showcase what kind of brother I was, but there are plenty of other examples. I’ve made Baby Bro steal beer from a convenience store ice cooler, thrown him in the trunk of a friend’s car and done doughnuts in a snowy church parking lot, and run him over with a golf cart.
As adults, even when we both became dads, we weren’t doing much better, and I felt guilty. College football seemed like a good way to connect. But I had no idea what I was in for. It was payback time, and every win he tallied was sweet revenge.