I want to share an anecdote with you for no other reason than an incident from my youth has recently been brought to my recollection—and given that it is a story about football that I will tell during Super Bowl week, it may help you to know more about Your Humble Columnist.
In the Autumn of 1991, I was in a rough touch football league with all the guys from my neighborhood, South Philadelphia. We were all friends, so the trash talking between all the teams was pretty thick. As the season went on, it was obvious that two teams were considerably better than the rest of the league. I was on one of those teams.
My squad lost both games against the other dominant team in the regular season; but it came to no one’s surprise that we would meet in the championship game after we both routed our semi-finals opponents.
In the annals of history, it would be hard for anyone to show empirical proof that any recreational league game in any sport, anywhere in the world, matched that game for intensity, desire, passion and unabridged, vulgar smack talk. Every second, every play, was a war between friends who knew that bragging rights would last forever.
Regulation ended with us knotted at 13. We won the coin toss for overtime, but went three-and-out and were forced to punt. On their first offensive play of overtime, I rushed the quarterback and saw he was going to launch a bomb deep downfield. I jumped up, fully extending my arms. I felt the texture of the football graze my middle finger…but not enough to impede its path. Falling to the ground I turned to look downfield and saw the most horrific sight. A receiver for their team was standing alone in the end zone. We blew our defensive coverage. We could not have gotten to him with a gun.
I rolled over to avert my eyes and knew he had caught the ball when I heard the cheers from the other team. I got up from the ground and walked off the field not looking at the epic scene I had just been involved with. My house was only a block away. I walked home in a numb rage. I sat on the edge of my bed for what seemed like an eternity…inconsolable, hyperventilating and what can only be described now as being in shock. Nearly a quarter of a century later, and I still cannot figure out how he got that wide open.
If any lesson is to be learned by this story, it is one I have failed to grasp all my life. I am super-competitive when it comes to playing games. My friends often joke with me about what a sore loser I can be. But more than that, the problem is that the weight of any loss is felt more profoundly than the joy of most of my victories.
It does not matter how many wins or losses we all have in life. We should embrace the successes and keep the failures from consuming us. My team won the championships in both 1992 and 1993—but I did not tell you that story, did I?
— While news may break between the time I type this column to when it is uploaded, it appears that the overhyped story regarding the New England Patriots using deflated footballs during the AFC Championship game was not due to any direct nefarious actions by any of the key players for the Pats. If proof comes up to the contrary in the interim, then I will retract this blurb. But until someone proves that Bill Belichick or Tom Brady were purposeful malefactors, the assertions made about them by the media are obscene.
I fully understand why many people hate the Patriots. They do come off as a smug lot. But journalists who talk about suspensions, or even having the Patriots be removed from the Super Bowl, without the burden of proof is grotesquely irresponsible.
— There are at least four people I know in Cache Valley who embrace being Seattle Seahawks fans that made no mention of their “lifetime” loyalty until the past couple of years. None. And yet, a look around the Valley and, even in the media, you would swear this region has bled blue and green forever.
I do not want to hear any claptrap that many in these parts are rooting for the Seahawks because of the former Utah State Aggies that are on the roster. The unfortunate truth is that people who live in Cache Valley are notorious frontrunners. They embrace rooting for teams that win championships to cope with the embedded inferiority complex that being from Utah can inflict upon its citizens.
When I moved to Utah in 2004, I was the only person who wore shirts and caps for the Philadelphia Phillies. They had not been good for a long time. But as soon as they won the World Series in 2008, all those Phillies fans that were absent from my presence suddenly littered Logan and USU’s campus. Philadelphians value loyalty more than any other virtue. If you did not root for us when we sucked, do not kiss our butts when we win. Go root for the Yankees!
Now that the Phightins have put together a string of bad years—and I think they will lose 100 games in 2015—I stand alone wearing that big “P” on my head. I bet I can get a Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers shirt at DI for $3 right now.
If you are wearing a Seahawks shirt, or your Facebook page obnoxiously proclaims your allegiance as a “12th man”, chance is you cannot tolerate your lifetime of failures. You need psychiatric help.
— My Super Bowl party will feature 8 lbs. of roast beef, a bottle of top shelf whiskey, a selection of microbrew beers…and no football fans other than myself.
We have thought up a great Super Bowl drinking game. Every commercial during the game that features a dog/puppy, we have to do a shot. I expect full kidney failure coupled with humiliating drunk texting-Tweeting before halftime.
— At my party, we will run a $1 a head pool for the game. For legitimate gamblers, Las Vegas has set the over-under on the number of times Marshawn Lynch grabs his crotch during the game at 3 ½. Take the overs.
— To finish, I refuse to make a prediction for the game. I do not care who wins. For me, Super Sunday has as much to do with football as Cinco De Mayo relates with Mexicans winning a battle against the French in 1862…because history tells us how hard that is to accomplish!
This Sunday is just an excuse for good friends to get together and enjoy each other’s company. Nothing profound or solemn about the day itself. I can even ignore that the game to be played features two teams that are deplorable to integrity and sportsmanship. The day is more a celebration of American indulgence.
And indulge I shall!