As a youth and young man, I didn’t much care for watching sports. I grew up in a household where the most sports that were on TV was the Super Bowl and occasionally a Yankees game, but those were few and far between. My younger brother loved the Buffalo Bills, but was four years younger than me – so as a huge nerd who felt himself better than televised sports, I acted obnoxiously above it all. Fairly certain I made fun of those who were into televised team sports. To those I may have mocked due to my nerdy intellect thinking I was better than you, I apologize – I was no better than those who would mock the geeky for their love of geeky things. But, I digress.
In college, I geeked out even further than before. I was playing regular Dungeons & Dragons games. I joined the anime club and watched quite a bit of it in my college time. I played a lot of various video games. Oh, and I was a chemical engineering student – so, enough said on my nerdiness. I continue to care very little for televised sports. I went to RPI, so I watched the occasional live hockey game – but to me that was more of an RPI culture experience than a watching sports experience. I had friends who were into televised sports, including an ex-girlfriend who’s uncle was involved in the coaching staff of an NFL team at that time. I still didn’t care and in fact shunned watching the sports, including shunning my then girlfriend from time to time. I was better than sports, I felt, but especially football. Football was a crude game of men running into each other, I would say pretentiously. Cause that was what I was – pretentious and wrong.
Fast forward to 2008. I had been married for over a year and just gotten a job in the Baltimore area. To save money while we were looking for a house, we moved in with my in-laws for the next six months. From August to February, football season. My father-in-law is an active Baltimore sports fan. Loves his Orioles, his Terps, but especially his Ravens. I was living in their house then (which I really appreciated, still do), so on Sunday afternoons – I watched football with my wife (who likes football) and my father-in-law. I started watching the Baltimore Ravens when quarterback Joe Flacco and coach John Harbaugh came to town. So, I was joining the Ravens at the start of a new era in Baltimore football – and they did not disappoint. In his first season, I watched as Flacco did something rookie quarterbacks rarely do – lead their team to the AFC Championship. They ultimately lost the game after a Pick-6 from Polamalu, but it was a roller coaster ride of a season. I found myself in a place I did not expect. I found myself enjoying watching football.
I came to appreciate the level of physical strength it took to accomplish anything on the football field. I appreciated the skills necessary for the competition, all the planning and preparation work in the game. I appreciated seeing detailed plays executed well, and seeing how a powerful defense would respond to a constantly changing cast of opponents. I loved watching Flacco on the field (who still has one of the best looking spirals in football, when he’s on point and not inconsistent). Flacco serving, as a rookie, as the general on the field sending his troops out to battle against an intimidating opponent. I enjoyed seeing the camaraderie among the players. And yes, I enjoyed having a nemesis in the game by the end of the season (cursed Steelers).
I had gone from pretentious anti-football geek to…still a huge nerd, but one who likes football, too. I haven’t stopped watching football since. I have become a Ravens fan (still rooting for the Bills for my brother’s sake from time to time…so long as they’re not playing the Ravens). I refer to the team in the first person plural, like all good fans do. I have, in essence, opened up my eyes to something I had ignored before; putting myself in a different environment than I was used to, I was able to appreciate something I had completely disregarded before. It was a blessing, albeit a silly one. I had learned to love America’s pastime, football.
No, baseball isn’t America’s pastime. It had it’s moment, it’s past. Long live football. Go Ravens. You are better than your 0-2 start would have the world believe…
(Image Source: Ned Dishman/Getty Images North America, Sept. 7, 2008)