It's not football.
No, it's more important than that.
It's not about the score, either.
It's a sense of community. Not the silly kind of 'nation' that seems to be appended to any half-brained idea, 'Chex-nation,' 'Sox-nation,' 'Twitter-nation,' and 'insert your favorite here-nation.'
It's quiet streets for three hours on a Sunday afternoon (or Sunday, Monday, or Thursday night) as devoted legions of fans gather to experience the changing tide of emotion that comes with supporting your favorite team.
It's a collective memory. Of days and times when teams weren't so good. Of times before you were even born, when larger-than-life characters roamed the field through the fall - then put on a coat and tie and assumed regular jobs in the off-season. Of times, when character demonstrated in the midst of adversity - a shared adversity, because on some level, it is 'you' out there - made you smile and swell just a bit with the intestinal fortitude displayed in the face of a lopsided scoreboard.
It's hope. Hope when the schedule looks daunting and everyon on the other side of the ball appear to be Goliath's older brothers.
It's bitter and sweet. The lows of disappointing plays and mistakes made all the sweeter by unexpected victories. By reaching the heights of the mountain, but knowing there is more to be done.
It's knowing about the good things that happen away from the cameras, the quiet faith displayed in real life, that help you walk just a little taller.
We're not fans because the team wins. We're fans - because we vicariously experience the season step by step. It's not our life on any level - but it makes our lives a little more complete.