As I continue to rocket my way to my late 30s, I learn new things about myself every day. And what happens is that I start actually paying attention. Naturally, I tend to “learn” from mistakes.
Yesterday was the last of two days of the best football we’re going to see for a long time. The two-day doubleheaders of Divisional round playoffs in the National Football league are hard to beat. There are enough games to dilute the attention on any one. It practically fills two days, and with one game at a time the fan gets to concentrate, which is hard to do on an average NFL Sunday with up to eight games going on at once.
Did I mention the drinking? On Saturday I shared a mini keg of Newcastle with my friend Don. I thought we’d empty the keg by the beginning of the second game at the rate we started while watching Steelers/Ravens. It lasted exactly as long as it needed to. On Saturday I felt under control. I was at home. I grilled for the first time in almost a week. We had some spinach dip. I was certainly rooting against the hated Ravens but I was rooting for the Steelers and the Falcons. When the Steelers pulled it out I was happy, and when the Falcons fell apart, I felt bad for my many Falcon friends but I witnessed an incredible performance by Aaron Rodgers, so I had nothing to complain about.
On Sunday I went to my friend’s house. The opener was Bears/Seahawks, and who besides my wife wants to see that Certs blue jersey-wearing team from Seattle in the Super Bowl again? It was a blowout from the start, and adding some interest was Greg Olsen’s first TD since Don picked him up in our playoff fantasy draft. The game was such a laugher that we spent half of it playing the Super Mario game on Wii. I’d say that we combined for about 30 continues and finished one level. That game is tough.
The last game was the highlight of the entire weekend. Here’s the tale. I have a friend that we’ll call Paul. What I say about Paul only has to do with his deep love for the Patriots. When the Patriots won their first Super Bowl, he reacted the way that a long-suffering fan should. He was happy beyond words and we were happy for him. In the next few years, the Patriots won every close playoff game and suddenly became the top franchise in the league. Paul’s continuing rants about the Patriots and his anti Peyton Manning stance gradually shifted into a shrill sound like a car alarm that wouldn’t go off. The peak of this was the “perfect season” in 2007. Tom Brady finally got his due with his first MVP and the team was called the best ever. Paul did not have to speak for us to feel the vibes of superiority. What we forget as fans is that we have about .001% to do with our chosen team’s success. Yet when they do have on-field success, we act like we were the ones making the key block or catching the game-winning touchdown pass. I don’t know how I’d react if the Titans went from being, well, the Titans to a multiple Super Bowl winner.
Super Bowl 42 was the peak of everything. There was no doubt that the Patriots would roll. T-shirts had already been printed and books were ready to ship calling this the team of the ages. This was the first time that Don and I ganged up to openly cheer against a team. We had no doubt that the Giants would lose, especially when the Patriots scored on the opening drive. We were incorrect and the improbable comeback led to a level of joy almost as spontaneous and innocent as when Paul watched that Vinatieri field goal go through the uprights. We were happy for another team’s, and friend’s failure and I think it damaged us a little.
Paul’s had another good season. He just won our fantasy football league title for the first time. The key move that propelled him was a questionable trade that gained him one Tom Brady. I suggested a Week 17 Bowl for every team with the top scorer getting a free draft weekend in 2011, and he won. The Patriots were gods on earth again, winning despite trading Randy Moss and having two undrafted free agents as their key running backs. Not only that, the team has six draft picks in the first three rounds of next year’s draft. They were really skilled and really smart. It’s like that quote from Spaceballs. “That’s why evil always triumphs. Because good is dumb.”
Another factor in our mood was my choice of drink. I went all beer on Saturday. On Sunday I exhausted my beer stash by the second quarter of the game. The Jets had the first interception of Brady since I was a zygote, only they didn’t get any points off the turnover. It seemed like the offensive hounds would be unleashed at any moment. Don offered wine. I accepted.
The wives arrived around halftime for the traditional meal. Sometimes we eat after the game but on this evening we ate during the game. The wine flowed. As Brady stood in the pocket for what seemed like ten seconds and still couldn’t find anyone, we knew something weird was going on. We became brash with our alcohol and started talking smack about our poor friend Paul and the Patriots. Neither of us have any interest in the Jets winning. I grew up a Dolphins fan and the Jets always felt like their key rival. But on this day, we wore green in our hearts. We cheered the great plays by the Jets and cheered the failures of the Patriots.
I found that while it’s enjoyable in the short term to cheer against a team (and at the same time, drink way more than a normal human being should), there’s no lasting good feeling that results. I have, as they say, a sharp tongue, and I can say some nasty things in the right mood, or yesterday, the wrong one.
Maybe it’s my entire attitude toward football that’s changed this year. I started taking Titan losses in a healthier way. Instead of gnashing my teeth and losing sleep, I learn to let it go. Today, when I had the opportunity to post dozens of tweets with the tone of “Suck it, Patriots!”, I calmed down. Sure, it was incredible that the Jets kind of dominated a team that beat them by 42 about a month ago. It’s wild that the Packers won three road games during the regular season and now they are favored to equal that number this week. Jay Cutler, hosting an NFC Championship game? Unpossible. The Steelers are in their fifth AFC title game in a decade, and the key is they aren’t playing the Patriots. The Jets are in conference title games for consecutive years for the first time ever. And the Pats have lost three playoff games in a row.
Wait a second, that was negative. I never thought about my friend Judd who’s been a life-long Jets fan. He has to be pretty happy. The team might be not so rootable with their never-ending trash talk and unusual off-the-field hobbies. They were coached up this weekend. And I’m glad I was present to witness all the glory. Maybe next time I’ll be less of an ass.
And I’m hung over like you can’t believe, so karma came back to bite me in the end.