Root, Root, Root, Who’s My Home Team?

So here we go again, Super Bowl Sunday. It is the last sporting event worth watching for the next six months, unless you can work up enthusiasm for what Dan Jenkins used to call nitwit golf, or tall men in their underwear jumping up in the air every ten seconds for two hours, or for baseball. The latter is okay in a summer ballpark with a hot dog, peanuts and Cracker Jack, but it’s a snooze on TV since it goes too slow and takes too long.

The trouble with the Super Bowl is that it is almost always a huge anti-climax. The conference playoff games leading up to it are often thrilling, followed by a Super Bowl that is either a blowout or a low-scoring slugfest reminiscent of soccer. Up the field one way, down the field the other, no points.

There’s also the fact that the two teams left are of interest to very few fans since 94% of the teams have been eliminated from the fun. Their followers are not at home cheering so much as weeping in front of the big screen while other luckier people are overdosing on guacamole and Buffalo wings.

I grew up as a Cleveland Browns fan until they were stolen away by greedy owner Art Modell who now occupies the same circle in Hell as Walter O’Malley (Brooklyn Dodgers) Bob Irsay (Indianapolis Colts) and all the other disloyal weasels who have moved teams, choosing money over the fans. I could hardly become a Steelers fan since they were the arch enemy of Cleveland, nor the Bengals since they were founded by turncoat Paul Brown.

When I moved to the Carolinas there was no local team. Twenty states are still in the same teamless situation and nine others have to share. New England is the team of six states, though lots of Connecticut folks turn their eyes toward New York. Kansas and Missouri share a team as do the two Carolinas and Cincinnati and Kentucky.

Until the Panthers were created, Carolinians had to choose between the Redskins and the Falcons. I never warmed to either, though in the days when Joe Gibbs was beating up on the Cowboys he got my vote just because anyplace calling itself America’s Team deserves to lose. Are the teams of every other city not American? That’s pretty uppity for a state that keeps lamenting the fact that it ever stopped being a separate Republic and keeps threatening to secede from the union – again!

Given our increasingly polarized politics, it may be necessary to think seriously about rooting for teams based on whether they are in Blue States or Red States. In fact, the NFL might want to consider rearranging the league into Reb (0h, sorry, Red) and Blue Conferences so the Super Bowl would always pit teams like New England, New York, San Francisco, Seattle against Texas, Atlanta, Tennessee, New Orleans. The fights in the stands would probably be better than the games on the field.

During several decades when I no longer lived in Ohio but before the Panthers gave the Carolinas a team, I had none to actually call my own. The substitute Browns weren’t the real thing but an ersatz imitation, and it was unthinkable to cheer for the traitorous Ravens. I tended to adopt oddball underdogs like Oakland or the Jets or teams that were simply too beautiful not to root for like Walsh’s Forty-Niners or Belichick’s Patriots.

But since the Browns are no more and the Panthers have come to Carolina, they are the home team, and I’m for them. This year I’d be for them no matter where I lived because Elway’s Broncos regularly dashed the hopes of the old Cleveland Browns, knocking them out in the Conference Championship game in 1986, 1987 and 1989. For fans of schadenfreude, the Broncos lost all three of the subsequent Super Bowls by the following margins – 39-20 to the Giants, 42-10 to the Redskins, 55-10 to San Francisco. Ha Ha Ha. Disappointed fans have long memories and hold grudges, so “Go Cam!” And “Screw you, Broncos,” and the Papa John’s and Nationwide shilling, geriatric quarterback you rode in on.

The worst thing about being a football fan at Super Bowl time (or any time frankly) is the fact that the sport is not just a chess game but also a war of attrition. By this late in the season the teams in the Super Bowl aren’t the best men, but the last men standing. At least nitwit golf is largely played by people who are intact into their golden years and who rarely have sustained head injuries, unless — like Tiger – the wives they’ve been cheating on have used a niblick to take a divot out of their noggins.

I’d say more, but the hype is ending and the kick off looms. Let the snacking begin.

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