The NFL season kicks off next week with the Broncos vs. the Ravens. Fans will remember that those two teams faced off in the playoffs last year. Everyone expected the Broncos to win, except for the Ravens, apparently. With 34 seconds left in the game, the Broncos led by a touchdown and the Ravens need to travel the length of the field to tie the game. Much to my dismay, the Broncos defense found themselves out of position and allowed a 70 yard score. In double overtime, our QB, widely considered one of the best to ever play the game, threw an interception and the Broncos lost. I was watching the game with friends in the basement and trying hard not to say something naughty in front of my children. It took a long time to get over that game. Who am I kidding? I am not over that game at all. Thinking about it makes me sick.
So my question is, why do I care so much? I am not on the team. I am not a coach. None of my relatives or friends play on the team. The players make more money than rocket scientists and brain surgeons to play a game. Most of them would also switch teams in a minute for more money or playing time. (See Dumervil, Elvis.) The following are some thoughts about why people like myself care so much about a game:
- I moved to Denver from Guam when I was three years old and left Denver for college in Minnesota when I was 18. When I went off to college I did not plan to stay in Minnesota. I figured I'd get my degree and then move back to Colorado. Somewhere along the line I decided to stay in Minnesota, with a two year foray into Wisconsin in the late 90s. I think that part of my football fandom comes from wanting to keep my Colorado roots alive. Since I do not live in the place where I grew up, following the Broncos allows me to keep that connection. My parents and brother still live in Colorado and it is nice to talk with them about the games. People in Denver love the Broncos in a way that a lot of other sports towns do not and I guess that will always be a part of me.
- People look for connections, things they have in common. I remember an airplane ride where the guy in the seat next to me complimented my Broncos hat. We talked for much of the flight about the Broncos, music, and our shared faith in Jesus. Football fans have an immediate connection and something to talk about. Often that starting point allows people to move on to deeper subjects.
- Watching football is a great social activity. Unlike baseball, basketball, or hockey, there is only one game a week. In the previously mentioned sports, if a team loses, they will play again in a day or so and can make up for the loss. With football, every game matters and that makes it fun to watch with friends. The cheering, high fives, and groans of agony all create shared experience with friends or even people you just met.
- I did not play organized football but I love to play a game of pickup football. Flag football, touch football, and snow football, I love them all. I am not all that good but I am better at football than basketball or baseball, two sports that I do not enjoy playing. When it comes to sports on TV, I like to watch either sports that I enjoy playing, ie Track and Field in the Olympics, or sports that amaze me, ie ski jumping in the Olympics. I can imagine catching a pass from Peyton Manning or kicking the winning field goal but I cannot imagine dunking over Michael Jordan or hitting a 90 mph fastball. I could be wrong, but I think most people think the same way.