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A lifelong football fanatic

By Anthony Rhoads

In the fall, football is king.

It might make some folks mad but it's not softball, volleyball or cross country ? it's football.

That's not slighting the other sports but you have to be realistic about it. On a crisp autumn Friday night, where are high school sports fans going and what are they talking about? Football.

And then on Saturdays, the vast majority of sports fans are into big-time college football. There are die-hard fans of the other sports but when it comes to sheer numbers and the revenue that is generated, football is far and away the No. 1 sport here in Georgia and throughout the nation.

On Monday, I heard University of Georgia AD Damon Evans speak at an Associated Press sports editors and sports writers meeting and the numbers were staggering.

Out of Georgia's athletic budget of well over $50 million, about 85 percent of the money generated comes from football. On the Georgia campus, like at other campuses throughout the country, only two sports operate in the black ? football and men's basketball. Even though Georgia has successful programs pretty much across the board in sports like baseball, women's basketball and gymnastics, all of those sports operate on a deficit.

Like it or not and regardless of Title IX issues, you can't deny that football pretty much pays the bills for everything else.

At the high school level, I'm not going to make any bones about it. Football is my favorite sport to cover.

While I admire the skill that it takes to play softball and volleyball and to run cross country, you really can't beat high school football.

Since I have been a sports writer I have had the chance to see some very good softball and volleyball games and have had the chance to see some very good cross country runners but when it comes down to it, my heart is more into football.

I really do respect the skill and dedication it takes for the other sports but I have pretty much been a football fan my entire life.

Ever since I can remember, I have watched football. As a small child, I would get so excited when I saw a football game on television and would always look forward to it.

And I had footballs, football board games, football cards, football posters, and I even had an electric football game that I received for Christmas one year. Other prized football possessions were two football packets from the Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Falcons, which were my favorite teams back then. When I was in the sixth grade, I wrote both the Dolphins and Falcons telling them how much I liked their teams. Both organizations sent me packets, which included posters featuring the top players on the teams, information about the teams, stickers and information about the National Football League.

Football basically was my life when I was a kid. On the playground we played other sports like basketball and baseball but football was the main game.

I didn't play much organized ball. I played a while with a youth league team in sixth grade and in seventh grade, I started practice with the junior high school team. But even before the season started, I got sick and nearly collapsed at a summer practice and was admitted into the hospital.

After that, my ?football career' ended. I was devastated when the doctors and the team trainer told me I couldn't play because of my heart condition.

But life goes on and I still love the game with a passion.

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com or sports@news-daily.com.