There are many of you out there wondering, most likely behind the safety of your eyelids, why more than 100 million people tune in every year for nearly half of the daylight hours on a particular Sunday in February to cheer (often arbitrarily) for one of two teams of overgrown men who throw themselves at each other fighting for the possession of a lousy, feces colored, disfigured ball. And to be honest, it’s not a bad question.
You may wonder if it’s for the enjoyment of watching the human body set new boundaries of what can’t be done? Or if it’s for the nail-biting, hair-pulling, teeth-grinding, jaw-dropping, heart-pounding thrill of competition? Is it for the last second, full tilt, 70 yard Hail Mary that is miraculously caught in the corner of the end zone only to be called back for offensive holding on number 76, the 15-year veteran left tackle?
Or perhaps we desperately want our team to win the Super Bowl because we feel that our unflinching, untiring devotion through 24 seasons, 15 starting quarterbacks, 4 jersey purchases, and 0 playoff wins requires some sort of validation to make all the heartache somehow “worth it”? Is it we feel that by screaming loudly and shouting profanity at the refs when they make an obviously correct call makes us part of the team on the field? Is it that our team is somehow connected to our identity, and wherever they go, a part of us goes with them?
Is it that we deep down wish that we could be the one out there in front of hundreds of thousands of fans chanting our name only for them to forget it the day we tear our ACL and get placed on career ending IR? Is it that we feel we never had a chance to achieve our own potential as an athlete, because of our parents, or our coaches, or our genetic punch card?
Is it for the hours spent agonizing over our $50 pool fantasy lineups? Is it for the excuse to order a pizza, cheesy bread, two molten lava cakes, and crack a beer, or 10, every Sunday from September to February? Is it for the friends that drink three beers for every one that they bring, only to cheer against you in the last 2 minutes and revel in your disappointment? Is it for the tailgate? The burgers and dogs? The Tostitos? The Cheese Puffs?
Or is it for the one day you walk into a 7/11 in Nowheresville, West Virginia to find the attendant wearing the same pony on his cap who gives you a toothless smile as he slips you a free Slim Jim? Or perhaps for the a**hole bird fan who double-parks you in at the movie theatre after seeing the blue star on your bumper?
Is it for the escape to a world with wins, losses, and worst case scenario, a tie? A world with both teams subject to clearly defined rules, penalty yardage, and a commissioner who does whatever the fuck he wants, when he wants, and how he wants?
Do we root for our team because we know deep down that no child should ever have to witness the Oakland Raiders win a Super Bowl? Or is it because we truly believe that our organization does things “the right way” while the Pats continue to get away with cheating?
Or do we watch for the friends that watch alongside us, commenting on who should win based purely on uniform color? Or for the trash talk that ensues before, during, and then ends abruptly when the things change late in the fourth quarter? We certainly don’t watch for Joe Buck.
Do we watch because everyone else is watching? Do we watch because we always have? Is it just a stupid game? Is it so much more than game?
To all of you who wonder, I have the answer. Yes it is. And yes we do.