This past Sunday, yet another football season began. And as always, millions of men and women began spending small fortunes -- on tickets, cable television, apparel, trading cards, beer, chicken wings, fantasy football, and every conceivable type of powdered-cheese-covered chip. Over the decades, these investments will add up to a meaningful amount -- one that can make the difference between retiring early or greeting people at Wal-Mart until you're 105. But the investment doesn't end with money. The average fan also invests massive amounts of emotional energy rooting for his/her team. And if that weren't enough, they -- OK, we (go Bears), also invest massive amounts of our most precious resource -- time.

Since we invest so much of ourselves in watching sports, why not put aside some of that time and energy to earn a real return on our investment? This way, when the spouse or some annoying writer/comic artist like me bugs you about this, you can claim to not only be watching the game but also legitimately tracking your investments. Here are some companies with a seemingly ubiquitous presence on, and around, the gridiron. Under Armour (NYSE: UA) is making progress in its battle against Nike (NYSE: NKE). Brilliantly, Under Armour has gone after American youths, primarily by providing free gear and equipment to high school teams. But lately, they are moving into bigger sponsorship deals with higher-profile players. Billions of dollars are at stake as these companies look to influence a worldwide audience of potential customers. Following the apparel wars can only add an entertaining layer of competition to the game.

Another never-ending battle is the battle of the beers. These include stocks such as Molson Coors (NYSE: TAP), Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD), and Boston Beer (NYSE: SAM). Too often, investors overlook simple things like tracking the success and authenticity of an ad campaign. For my taste, Bud commercials have become unbearably stupid, while Boston Beer's ads for Sam Adams seem exceptionally well-focused. And Coors has never wavered from its relentless (and kind of ridiculous) commitment to providing cold beer. Of course, far more research is needed to determine if these are good investments, but with billions of dollars spent on ad campaigns for beer, this is as reasonable place to look for potential stock market winners. And you're already watching thousands of beer commercials anyway.

The bottom line is that football and sports in general appeal to something primal inside us all. If we're going to invest vast majorities of our free time, energy, and money into following a sport, we owe it to ourselves to maximize our return on that investment.

Fool contributor Daniel Joshua Rubin owns no shares of the companies mentioned in this article. But he did recently realize a sweet profit on Under Amour, which is a selection in David Gardner's Motley Fool Rule Breakers. Nike and Boston Beer are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Under Armour is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Under Armour. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.