It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I grew up with two sisters who were just as disinterested in football as I was, except in high school on Friday nights during home games. But even then, I spent most of the night walking around the field with my friends, saying hi to boys I liked, without a clue what has happening on the field.
The older I got, the more I gravitated toward people who didn’t like football much, either. But then I moved to Taos in my forties, and fell in love with someone who patiently answered any and all questions I had about the game, filled in human interest stories about the players, and before I knew it, I fell in love with the Patriots and followed every game I could get on TV without paying for the NFL pass.
I started to appreciate the beauty of the game, the long passes Tom Brady would throw with razor-sharp precision, the rushers who dragged three or four defensive players with them as they crossed the imaginary line for a first down, the runs that took off like a bullet and made it into the end zone. I realized that football could be a beautiful thing. It was fun to have allegiance to a team, to care about the players. I couldn’t believe I could turn into a fan in my fifties, but it happened.
But the last two games I watched left me feeling sick in the pit of my stomach. The AFC championship game was excruciating to watch. The announcers kept praising the strength of Denver’s defense, but all I could see was their pummeling our quarterback. Sure, Tom Brady is not as young as he used to be, and people were saying maybe he’s past his prime.
And then the Super Bowl was the same story, this time with Cam Newton, a quarterback who was so exciting to watch all season long. A young one, African American, with spirit and swagger and a run game that made any play more exciting. By the middle of the second quarter, this giant of an athlete looked haggard, exhausted, just like Tom Brady did a couple weeks before. The only touchdowns scored were mistakes that Denver capitalized on. I’m not dissing the Broncos. This is the way the game is evolving. But to me it felt more like watching a bullfight than a game.
And I haven’t even seen Concussion yet with Will Smith.
Trust me, this isn’t sour grapes. I’m glad that Peyton won his 200th game and can leave the way Elway did, on top of his game.
I just don’t love the game anymore. I’ve seen the man behind the curtain, and I don’t like what I see. Good-bye, forever, football. We’ve grown apart. You’ve changed, or maybe I just got to know the real you. It was fun while it lasted, but I don’t love you anymore.