For the Love of the Game

There’s a football game this weekend.

It’s a pretty big one.

I’m known to be a passionate and outspoken man, and one of my biggest passions is for the game of football. I love the game.

I fell in love with the game when I was 18, just after high school. Those were the first days of the party life for me and I’d wake up on someone’s couch most Sundays – after a hell of a good time – and flip on the tube. In the room, generally filled with recovering revelers, there would be a rousing round of cries for their football game. I had never much watched it before then, but I gave it a go.

Looking at it through the now-infamous critical Cummings eye, I broke it down mentally. I watched this chess match develop before me between offensive and defensive units. Like superhero battles in the comics I loved, each titan would square off against a rival, equally matched. But, like the Avengers versus the Masters of Evil, the individual fight was a part of a larger ballet. Each personal success or failure influenced the larger production. Defeat was not an option. Everything was on the line.

I came to love football, I suppose, for different reasons than most.

But come to love it I did. Sundays, in time, became “my time.” Eventually I married, but Mrs C would know, during the fall, that I would prepare each weekend for 9 hours of the game. I watched every broadcast, taking notes. In time, I would mimic the words of the broadcasters in the booth, delivering their lines moments before they did. There was a pattern to their game as well. I learned it. I learned everything I could about the game.

The offseason became as important as the season to me. I would produce mock drafts, trying to project the needs of every team and the most critical young player to fill it. Free agency became a new game to me in the 90s. I read every publication I could get my hands on in the spring and the summer. I awaited that glorious moment when the first foot hit leather in August. Even the preseason was glorious; 53 players or more were vying for 22 spots. Offense. Defense. War.

I’m older now, but my passion for the game remains unbroken. I don’t sit around all day Sunday anymore taking notes, memorizing lines, or building rosters. Well, not every Sunday. But I do still absorb everything about the game I can get my hands on. I still watch as much of it as I can. I still imagine conducting the orchestra and I always, always, always second-guess the call.

There’s a pretty big game this weekend. It’s a football game. It’s the culmination of all the battles on all the turfs in all the stadiums in America. And beyond. 106 players, in 44 starting positions, will lay it all on the line for the most coveted title of all. Super Bowl Champion.

I’ll be with family. I’ll have beer and snacks and football pools and party games all around me. If I can help it I won’t miss a snap. I’ll analyze every play. I’ll second-guess every call. My passion on display.

Immediately after, I’ll start planning strategic offseason moves. I’ll mock some drafts and begin the six-month journey to the next first kick. I’ll write some stuff like this.

There’s a pretty big game this weekend, one I’m pretty passionate about.

It’s the 51st Super Bowl.

I can hardly wait.

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