Lincoln, Neb.'s devotion to its Cornhuskers is legendary, and right now there's nothing like a historic team preparing for another attempt to fight its way back into the spotlight. Bo Pelini, hired this year, promises to bring back the walk-on system, giving more local players the chance to "bleed red" at UNL. Longtime fans are watching cautiously, but no matter who's in charge, they'd still be in the stands.
"For people my age and older, it's something we look forward to every year," says Harley Bergmeyer, 66, a banker and chair of the University of Nebraska Foundation. "People have football tickets in their last will and testament so they stay in the family." Bergmeyer has already been scouting this year's team at preseason practices, and touts Lincoln's sense of community, tradition, and safety for some truly enjoyable football.
"It's more than just a football game," he says.
In the same vein, State College, Pa., defines a larger version of Lincoln's fervor, where 85,000 residents situated in "Happy Valley" live for Penn State athletics. The town's location in central Pennsylvania also makes it a conduit to the state's pro rivalry. Students from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia mean an annual influx of Steelers and Eagles fans.
Madison, Wis., gets a nod both for its Badgers and its proximity to Green Bay Another pick: Chicago, is the big-city version of enduring hometown devotion, where the Chicago Bears remain an enduring temple to fandom, and the city of Chicago continues to draw retirees back into urban living.
Out west, Pasadena, Calif., the L.A. suburb, puts fans close enough to watch University of California-Los Angeles and University of Southern California, plus a prime spot every year for the Rose Bowl. If you need the pro fix, fans can turn south to San Diego, where the Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson are among the current short list favorites to play in the 2009 Super Bowl, according to BetUS.com.
Other retirement spots sit at the nexus of long-standing traditions—and rivalries.
Tempe, Ariz., may be dominated by Phoenix Suns fans, but the Cardinals are still there, and the rivalry between Arizona State and the University of Arizona-Tucson is still surprisingly hot.
In Cincinnati, Bengals fans mix with Ohio State Buckeyes backers. Ohio also has the Cleveland Browns, but we'll pick it for proximity to both Columbus and the Indianapolis Colts.
Some spots have great bits of football history, like Pocatello, Idaho, home to Holt Arena, the first covered college football stadium. Others, like Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., have great traditions but offer less in the way of amenities for folks looking to retire. Also, we'd simply like to apologize ahead of time to Ann Arbor, Mich., fans for excluding them.
While the real best place for a football fan to retire may just be wherever their home team is, here's U.S. News's list of places that combine a quality retirement with an eye toward the 50-yard line: