As of yesterday, a new season had begun. I am talking about American football (not to be confused with the rest of the world’s football, a.k.a. soccer). And, I have got to say — I am a big football fan.
It all started in the autumn of 1978, when I had been in this country for just two years. It was September. The air smelled like burning leaves and longing, the nights were becoming cooler, and I discovered the Denver Broncos and the famous “Orange Crush” defense.
At first, the game made no sense. All the teams were made up of large men wearing helmets and pads, and very bright, shiny tights. And they would take a fairly small running start, and run at each other as hard as they possibly could, to move a ball forward. Weirdly, the ball was not round, but rather oblong. Hmmm. The exception to the very large men were a few players who weren’t all that big — but they were incredibly fast and agile. The sounds of the game alone were amazing — the crashing of helmets against helmets, the grunts, the quarterback’s yelling out words and numbers and the whistles (of the referees). And those colors, the brilliant team colors. They were breathtaking. Take the 1978 Broncos, for example — bold orange and blue. That’s right, bright, unbelievably bright orange with dark blue and, at that time, the helmets with a rearing white bronco inside a large letter D for Denver.
I loved watching the game. As a still relatively new immigrant, I had no clue about how it was played, but I became a fan pretty quickly. I would watch, with my mouth hanging open, taking in the violence and the acrobatics, thinking, “This may be the stupidest, yet greatest thing I’ve ever seen. Screw the circus, the shit just got real!” Well, maybe not in those words, this was the ’70s, but something in that vein, because it was remarkable. In time, I learned about first downs, penalties, field goals, and the end zone celebration following a touchdown.
For many years, to be the fan of the Denver Broncos a very difficult thing. We’d have some good teams, make it to the playoffs, then go to the Super Bowl and lose. And lose spectacularly — getting blown out. Then, we’d go in a year or two again, and lose again, and again, lose spectacularly — getting blown out. And each loss was devastating. I would scream at the TV, implore the players to run the ball, get to the other team’s quarterback, and criticize a dropped pass. I remember one time driving on the highway, listening to the game on the radio, and crying. I probably shouldn’t have been driving under the influence of football.
Then, after our logo became an angry horse and dropping the D, we actually won our first Super Bowl, in 1997, (we went on to win the year after that, as well). Following these two Super Bowl victories, we had a quite few lousy years of the Denver Broncos, where I suffered agonies that only a true fanatic knows.
I admit that one year, in my frustration, I jumped on the bandwagon and decided to switch loyalties. I have decided that I’ve had enough of the almost-making it, and self-tackling players, and I wanted to follow a team that never lost. I, at first casually, then openly rooted for the New England Patriots when they were so dominant that they did not lose a single game the entire season. They blasted their way through the fall and winter and went on to lose the one game that mattered, the only game that would crown their glorious achievement — the Super Bowl. I was stunned, and again, watched the game and cried. After that loss by the most dominant team in football, I made two decisions. I will never be a superfan to the point of hysteria, ever again, for any team in any sport. I will no longer lose sleep, or worry, or scream at the TV (terribly loud). I was going to watch games, especially the Denver games, and root, but not give my heart away to any team. And, of course, the New England Patriots were dead to me — a sentiment my husband wholeheartedly approves of.
So now the new Broncos season is upon us. The very first game we play is this coming Monday, against the Oakland Raiders — Monday Night Football. The whole country will be watching. And what is the worst that can happen? My team might lose. This is not a hurricane, not a house fire, and not life or death. But I hope they win.