In the aftermath of the Atlanta Falcons making the Super Bowl for the second time, I’ve been contemplating my relationship with football. I love the competition. I love the drama. I don’t love finding out the disgusting things that players do at the bottom of the pile (apparently Brian Bosworth would purposely puke on opponents). But for the most part, I enjoy all aspects of what actually happens on the field. I think some of this comes from my long career in the NFL (Neighborhood Football League). I still think the highlight of my career was the catch I made sometime in middle school, when my defender and I fell down while a bomb was on the way to me, only to have the ball bounce off my shoe and into my hands. But surely you’ve seen the footage of that incredible moment (I’m sure you can find it online if you look hard enough).
Anyway, here are 3 reasons I like football:
Reason #1: Good vs. Evil
Of course, it is totally subjective which teams fit into each category. For me, it was usually a matter of the underdog vs the favorite. My first memory of this (during the first season I watched football) was the Broncos (good ) vs the Browns (evil) in the AFC Championship at the end of the 1986 season. John Elway completed “The Drive” to win the game and the good guys won, only to be decimated by the Giants (evil) in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, evil would triumph over good again the next year, when the Redskins obliterated the Broncos. The best thing about that Super Bowl was what happened after it-the premiere of The Wonder Years. In fact, come to think of it, I spent a lot of my first years watching football rooting for the team that ultimately lost in the Super Bowl. With the exception of the 49ers (ULTIMATE good guys), I rooted for the losing team in 6 out of the first 8 Super Bowls I watched. That included the poor Buffalo Bills, good guys who were not good enough to ever win the big game, despite making it four years in a row. Watching what the Bills went through was particularly torturous-it was like they had asked the most popular girl to the Prom four years in a row, only to be stood up each and every time. Continuing with the dance analogy, the Cowboys in my mind were stereotypical 80s villain/jerky popular guy, except in this particular set up, they got the girl/Super Bowl ring 3 out of 4 years. It was painful, especially for a 49ers fan. Today, many view the Patriots as evil, but they are unique in that they started as an underdog (so I rooted for them) but have since transitioned into a dynasty. So while I hope the Falcons win the Super Bowl, if they don’t I’ll still be happy for the Patriots to get another title. (side-note: I still consider Joe Montana to be the best quarterback in NFL history, but I have to admit I think Tom Brady is closing the gap with each incredible season he has).
Reason #2: Shared Experiences
Football can bring people together, no matter their age difference. I had the good fortune to live next door to a die-hard UGA fan named Jamie. I have him to thank for my continued fandom of the Bulldogs. I am 3 years younger than Jamie, which isn’t a big deal now. But at the time, a 12 year old having a 9 year old hang out with him must have felt a bit like waterboarding to him (or what Chuck Norris’ character endures in Missing in Action 2). Still, he let me tag along and we watched UGA games together, including the memorable 1987 Liberty Bowl, which John Kasay won with a field goal with no time remaining. This was the first of many experiences that were made better by watching with friends. Others include: attending Super Bowl parties, like the one in 1995 when the 49ers won their 5th Championship and the high school senior version of me gave my inner 10-12 year old a high five; watching in disbelief with my college friends as the Falcons made the Super Bowl during the 1998 season; watching the Rams and Titans play a mostly forgettable first half of a Super Bowl, only to have the second half leave my friends and I on the edge of our seats. For some reason, screaming at the TV in celebration/horror/disgust with others can create a lasting memory.
Reason #3: Enhanced Intelligence
I have never coached a day of football in my life. I have never worn a headset on the sideline and torn it off in frustration. I have never been a quarterback that reads an oncoming blitz and calls an audible that wins the game. However, I (and millions of other fans) know exactly what a college or professional team should do to win the game. What is great is that there was no other qualification for this highly respected position except watching games (perhaps my vast experience with 10 Yard Fight and Tecmo Bowl also helps). When the team I’m rooting for doesn’t win, I am able to pinpoint with 100% accuracy what mistakes they made and what they should have done. And it’s not just me-pretty much every person attending a game or watching it has the same ability. Therefore the only logical conclusion is that watching football makes you smarter and gives you more knowledge and insight than the coaches/players that actually pace the sidelines.
It is for this reason that I hope to get my daughters interested in watching football with me. My viewing has definitely decreased since becoming a father, but now that they are getting older, I’m trying to slowly reel them in. It would be a win-win situation: spending time with family and also getting to watch sports! However, it is still a work in progress. So far my oldest likes to pick her favorite team based on the colors of their uniform. I still have some work to do.