Football Morning in America reader Hugh Royal shares NFL culture in small-town America

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Peter King is on vacation until July 15, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Hugh Royal of Richfield, Idaho, who was selected out of a few hundred readers who submitted essays on why they wanted to be an FMIA guest columnist.

RICHFIELD, Idaho — I learned early in my work career about NFL fan extremism. As a production manager at the Avonmore Whey Plant in Idaho, I traveled for the job and once visited Wisconsin. The first night, I stayed at a local hotel with a lounge. I stopped for a beer before dinner. The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings were playing on TV, and the Pack was losing, and I made what was probably a disparaging comment about Green Bay. Every head turned toward me and gave me a look like, “Who the hell are you and do you want to live?” When I got back from dinner that night, the desk clerk stopped me. He was pointed. He suggested for my own good that tomorrow I move to another hotel. I couldn’t believe he was serious, but I did move the next day. And was VERY careful about what I said after that.

It’s not like that where I live. I live in Richfield, Idaho. Richfield is a town of about 400 in south-central Idaho. We have blue sky and can see all the stars at night. We can see nearby snow-capped mountains. We’re 50 miles northeast of Twin Falls, and about a two-hour drive southwest of Boise. Richfield was established as a railroad town in the late 1800s. The total population of Idaho is still under two million.

We like keeping Idaho a secret. I am sure I will get some mail calling me bad names for letting the world know what a gem Idaho is. We are much more than just potatoes. But we’re small, and we make no apologies for it. The Richfield High School Senior class numbered 11 students this year. Nine graduated. Out of the nine, eight are going to college. Once you leave the township, your nearest neighbor is usually a mile or more away. It is quiet. Real quiet.

We don’t really have an NFL home team in Richfield. It’s difficult to call a team a “home” team and take it to heart when the closest league market is nine-and-a-half hours away by car. Think of our geography: We’re 630 miles southeast of Seattle, 700 miles from both Denver and Oakland, 840 miles from Phoenix, and don’t even think about making a car trip to see the Vikings in Minneapolis. They’re 1,300 miles east of us, and Montana’s pretty wide.

So in Richfield, there are fans who pledge allegiance to Seattle, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Arizona, San Francisco, Denver, Green Bay, Dallas, and the L.A. Rams—a veritable potpourri of NFL fandom.

Much of NFL life in Richfield happens around the bar named the Little Wood Saloon. The official bar motto is: Where the beer is cold and the BS is free. The saloon was originally a hardware store built in the early 1900’s. The original ceiling, hardwood floor and some doors are still in place. There are pictures on the wall of cowboys and their activities. There is a chandelier from a Nevada whorehouse on the ceiling. There are no NFL team pennants on the wall, no autographed football pictures or helmets. Quite a few people in the bar, and those “interviewed” for this column, are related either by blood or by marriage. That’s just the way it is in a small town.

During the NFL season, after a Sunday or Monday night game, or after the Super Bowl, the economy does not improve or get worse. No one calls in sick, no fights occur, and a baby boom does not happen nine months later. The season schedule is on the wall and people use it to see when their team is playing. We don’t know what a Cover 2 is. We can probably tell the difference between a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense by watching the game, but we don’t try and identify it as such.

We don’t watch the draft. We do track trades. Some play fantasy football. I don’t think any of us have actually watched an NFL game on our phones.

We know when someone throws for 400 yards or runs for 200 yards. We know when upsets occur, especially if New England gets beat. But the NFL isn’t exactly an obsession in Richfield.

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