Monday, January 25, 2010

It seems I'll have to watch the Super Bowl, after all.

I've never been much of an NFL fan. As I've explained before, I came of sports fan age in Florida long before there were Bucs or Jaguars, or even Dolphins. Back in the 1950s and '60s, the college game was the Real Deal. I took an occasional interest in pro ball; for a while, I was a fan of the Baltimore Colts because my dad and I had watched their star running back, Lenny Moore, when he played for the Eglin Air Force Base Eagles. (For a time, I thought the horseshoe design on the Colts' helmet was a "U" for Unitas.) Still, I was always more interested in the fortunes of the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles. Having no connection to either school, I rooted for both, but usually rooted for State when they played Florida because of my weakness for underdogs. This later changed when Bobby Bowden built the 'Noles into a superpower; my algorithm then was to back whichever team had the best shot at post-season glory.

After moving to New York, and having read Fred Exley's A Fan's Notes, I declared myself a Giants fan. In 1976, however, the Tampa Bay Bucs came on the scene, tempting me with old hometown loyalty. I went to the Lion's Head to watch them play the Giants, who had just forsaken the City to play in their new stadium in the New Jersey meadowlands. I arrived, checked the score on the TV, and said to Tommy the bartender, "Looks like my home town team isn't doing so hot." "Yeah," Tommy said, "Jersey's beating 'em."

After that, my interest in baseball began to eclipse that in football, though I still followed the college game. I would watch the Super Bowl, usually rooting for whichever team was rated the underdog. I did root for the Giants in 1986, when they beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI. However, in 1990, when they played the Bills in XXV, I secretly (since I watched the game at the apartment of a Giants fan) rooted for Buffalo because of their underdog status and my (some would say perverse) liking for the Queen City of the Niagara Frontier.

This year I was impressed by the Saints, and thought it would be a good thing for poor New Orleans, another city I love, to get a championship. Then along came the Jets, rising from mid-season near disaster to defeat the Colts, I team I have loathed since Robert Irsay deliberately sabotaged the franchise in Baltimore, then shipped the team's equipment out of town under cover of night. I thought the Bengals would prove the Jets' nemesis, but against all conventional wisdom they won two games from them, both decisively. It seemed too much to hope they could pull off a fourth miracle, and it was.

Had the Vikings won the NFC crown, I'd have sat out this year's Super Bowl, but Brees and company came through, so I'll cast my lot with them.