I was a late-bloomer when it came to football-fanhood. Sure, I watched the Bengals lose two SuperBowls to the Niners, but I was hardly an armchair quarterback. I was in it for the community aspect.
Usually, televised Bengals games were the center of a Sunday ritual at my Dad's house which involved yelling at the television and eating my stepmom's chili. I didn't understand the game, but I certainly could recognize Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason, Chris Collinsworth, Anthony Munoz and Max Montoya. I can still do the "Icky Shuffle"!
In college, while most of my fraternity brothers spent the weekend watching college an pro football, I would hang out with my girlfriend, listen to tunes or head into a larger college town to watch independent movies. My sole foray into watching the pigskin was on SuperBowl Sunday when my fraternity would hold a rush. It was fun being a casual fan. Watching other guys sweat it out over bets they had made or pride for their team made me feel comfortable. I didn't feel any pressure at all.
I continued to all but ignore football throughout most of the nineties. Cousin Eddie would have family SuperBowl parties that were more a family reunion than a sporting event. In grad school theatre, there were a handful of sports fans. And most of the directors scheduled rehearsals on SuperBowl Sunday. I'd be lucky to catch half of the event. And, to be honest, I enjoyed the commercials more than the game by that point.
My view on football, and the N.F.L. began to change in 1998. P-Girl and I had been dating for several months and were in Jamestown for Mr. Social's wedding. This was the weekend before Halloween, which meant very cool weather in Western New York. On the day after the wedding, we headed across the lake on The Silver Fox (P-girl's dad)'s boat. It was a cold, dismal afternoon, and we docked in Bemus Point. Soon we were hunkered down at the Surf Club's small bar (tucked away in a small room behind the large bar). The place was empty, and the three of us spent the afternoon drinking bloody mary's, eating sandwiches and watching the Bills play. For the first time in my life, I really watched the game. It started to make sense. The Silver Fox was a high school football coach and didn't treat me like an idiot when I asked questions.
My education continued at home with P-Girl. She also knew the game and could answer most of my questions. Since we were living in South Florida, I watched what was available - Dolphins games. I didn't watch every one, but enough to remain interested. In the fall of 1999, I began to watch more. Dan Marino was taken out because of injury and his backup had to take over for five games. Backup Damon Huard went 4-1 and had to fight for every one. It was gripping and enjoyable. I was dissapointed when Marino was given the top spot back. His last game against Jacksonville was atrocius.
I'd seen enough to keep me going. I was hooked. I started watching some college bowl games (including some Michael Vick action at Virginia Tech) and some of the Florida college matchups as well. I even caught a few Bills games along the way.
When we moved to western New York in 2001, I continued to follow the Dolphins and caught a few Bills games. Unfortunately, an arrogant quarterback named Rob Johnson had the top spot for Buffalo. Doug Flutie came in as back up a couple of times, but mostly, that season was a wash.
Drew Bledsoe came to Buffalo in 2002 and delivered some of the goods, but not enough to keep the Bills from drafting JP Losman in 2004. It's been rough to watch at times, but I love our division and watching every Sunday.
And now I am going into my second season as part of a fantasy football league. Brother Tim created last year's AFFL (Awesome F***ing Football League), which saw his Drunk Micks and my Big Galoots end up #1 and #2 respectively. We only had six teams, and three friends along with us (the last team was a ghost team), but I had a lot of fun trading players and watching stats play out over each weekend. I still managed to enjoy watching the Bills, but now when they didn't do so well, I would have another reason (excuse?) to watch another game or two.
This season, the AFFL has been resurrected. Along with the newly named Drunkin' Micks and the Nancy Boys (formerly the Big Galoots), we have the Mighty Mews, Tom Landry's Hat, Scarface and the Vanderbilt Vandals. We're looking for at least two more teams, but can accomodate another 4. So, if any of you or your hubbies would like to join the league, drop me a line! So far we have the states of New York, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania represented.
I might also join the Wine Cellar's league which is run by CBS Sports. If any of you would like to name my new team, post it in the comments section. The winner will get a DVD copy of Paul Dinello's "Beyond The Door".