By Tony Russell

I ran into my old friend Manfred yesterday in the drug store. I almost didnt recognize him. There was a spring in his step, hed lost his paunch, and he wore a smile on his face.

Manfred! I said. Is that you?

The new me, he said. Lifes wonderful again. I feel like a boy!

Theres definitely something different about you, I ventured.

Well, for starters, no athletic cap, T-shirt, sweatshirt, or jacket, he offered.

Now that you mention it, I can see youve changed your wardrobe, I said. But theres more to it than that. You look younger. Healthier. What happened?

Ive joined FoofAnon, he said. We meet in the church basement four times a week. Its turned my life around.

FoofAnon? I said. Thats a new one on me. Then, rather delicately, I added, I wasnt aware that you had a 221problem.

I cant blame you, he said. I wasnt aware of it for years myself. I was in denial. My life was spiraling out of control, I lived in a Lay-Z Boy, I was surviving on beer and pretzels, and Id stopped having any meaningful contact with my wife and kids.

I was stunned. What was it? I gasped. Crack? Crank?

Football, he confessed. FoofAnon stands for 221Football Fans Anonymous.

Football? I repeated.

It sneaks up on you, he said. You start out as a social viewer, just flipping on a few with friends. Then it escalates. I started out watching WVU games on Saturdays, years ago. Then I began watching the pre-game shows and the post-game shows. Then I added the games that came on before them and after them. Then I started watching pro games on Sundays. At first I just watched the Steelers. Then I began to watch all the games, from noon until nightfall every Sunday. Then I added Monday night football.

Thats a lot of football, I admitted, doing some quick mental calculations.

About twenty-five hours a week, he said. Of course, that doesnt count reading the sports pages and Sports Illustrated, arguing with my buddies about football, or listening to the Coachs Comments and listener call-in shows.

To be fair, youd have to count those, I said.

It just takes over your life, he went on. And it seems so normal. You dont realize the grip it has on you. I tried a couple of times to switch off the TV, or plan something else to do on a weekend. Go camping. Or visit my dad. But Id find a way to sneak off and check the scores, or watch a replay. Finally, I had to admit that my life was out of my control, and turn it over to a higher power.

When did you bottom out? I asked.

About a year ago, during the holiday bowl season, he said. I had the week off between Christmas and New Years, and I watched at least six hours a day every day of the week. My kids and their families had all come in for the holidays, and I didnt even know who was there. My eyes were glazed, and I was in some sort of trance. They all got together and planned a family intervention. Right in the middle of the FedEx Orange Bowl, they pulled the plug. Its the best thing that ever happened to me.

Im surprised Ive never heard of FoofAnon, I said. Do many people belong?

Enough to fill several good-sized stadiums, he said.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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