As soon as talk about a looming global pandemic swept across the States, everyone took a hard, isolated hit. For fans of sports teams, this was an especially hard transition in a unique way. Most major sports seasons were halted or altered—which meant that fans of these sports teams weren’t able to support their favorite teams and players from the stands.

Luckily, sports are starting up again. Jerseys are coming out, fields are being prepped, and stands, well, many of those are still sitting empty. With the continual threat of COVID-19, large groups are prohibited or discouraged, including at the stadiums. While some schools are slowly reopening their stadiums to a limited number of fans, others remain closed. This is bad news for many sports fans, as attending games is a major part of their social lives, especially college football fans. Instead of chatting with friends and yelling as your team makes a touch-down in the crisp fall air, you’re stuck inside… as you have been for half the year. Long story short, fans are grieving right now—but that’s okay.

Grieving the Camaraderie

When you think of grief, you likely associate it with the loss of a loved one. However, grief is associated with any type of loss, including the loss of a social life during your favorite sports seasons. When we grieve, we might experience five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Here’s how these stages might unfold: You can’t believe sports are still being moderated; you’re mad that you can’t attend a game; you think about how this could be different if people had just stayed home; you don’t even feel like watching sports anymore; and finally, you accept that there’s nothing you can do to change the situation.

Wherever you are in the grief process, give yourself permission to grieve what once was prior to the pandemic. Attending sporting events and rooting for one’s favorite team is a big part of a lot of people’s lives. For college football, it affects long-time fans, past students, and current students. Not only are students having to quarantine on campus and miss out on other aspects of student life, but they also can’t support their college in the stadium. Maybe you’re missing out on:

  • Preparing and cooking meals for your tailgate
  • Sitting together with your friends in the parking lot before a game
  • Getting dressed up in your spirit gear
  • Cheering in the stands while eating your favorite stadium meal
  • Feeling the smile on your face as you pack up and head home after a long day of camaraderie

Nobody could predict or plan for COVID-19 and its effects on life as we know it. While you may not be able to go to the stadium this year, there are still some ways you can experience joy during the football games this year.

Game Day: COVID Edition

Yes, maybe the stands will stay cold without you in them this season but that doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to support your team. Here are some COVID-safe ways to cheer on college football this season…

  1. Host small, pandemic-safe watch parties: If you and your family and friends miss the hors d’oeuvres, the smell of charcoal, and chats before the game, you can host small get-togethers in place of tailgating. Maybe you gather around your living room or even sit outside in lawn chairs like you would in the parking lot.
  2. Wear your favorite team’s jersey or colors: Even if you’re gathered around your TV at home, you can still show support by dressing up in your team’s spirit gear. Step it up a notch and include face paint and pom-poms.
  3. Watch the games from a local restaurant: A lot of sports fans like watching games from restaurants. What better combo than fresh food and flat screens on every wall? While the pandemic is still lurking, just make sure to practice safe social-distancing and wear a mask when near others. Support small businesses by choosing a local restaurant to watch the game instead of a chain.
  4. Host a Zoom hangout: Maybe you have friends that you normally meet up with at games that travel from all over. Maybe you just want to be cautious and not be around a lot of people. Hosting a zoom hangout allows you to still get the social aspect of watching games together, even when you’re not. Make them fun by having spirit gear contests and playing games. You won’t even realize that you are miles apart.

Whatever you do, remember to have fun. Keeping a positive attitude and looking on the bright sides can be difficult, especially when you feel like you’ve been knocked down so many times, but the effort will pay off. Make the most out of what you can’t change. Plus, you never know. You may even start some new traditions.