Friday, September 6, 2013

Football Returns

To my son Tommy,

NFL football started up again last night and everyone had a buzz about them.  I have been disenchanted with professional football (and for that matter all professional sports) for some time.  When I was a bartender, I lived and breathed football.  Being able to talk and understand and follow along with the games greatly enhanced my tips.  Even the fact that I was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan didn't hurt me because everyone needs a foil, someone to increase the drama and talk trash to, in the world of sports and bars.

Many people wonder how I became a Steelers fan.  Many don't realize I am not Baltimore born.  I was born in Utah because your Grandpa Leo was stationed at an army base in Tooele.  Being an army brat doesn't lend itself to team loyalty since you move around every two or three years, but since your Grandma Roro was such a die hard Baltimore Colts fan as was her father, I considered myself a Baltimore Colts fan.  Then in 1984 the city lost its team to Indianapolis.  My family was headed overseas to a station overseas in Italy so for the next three or four years I would just immerse myself in local soccer teams as it was much more readily available and the only American professional sport I would watch was when the Armed Forces Network broadcast an occasional Orioles game.  When I came back to the states to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, I had to pick a new team.

Football fans in the area seemed to go one of three ways.  You either became a fan of the Steelers, the Redskins, or the Eagles.  I picked the Steelers as they had a great history and I admired their working class fan base.  My pick was definitely not the bandwagon pick.  Most were on the bandwagon with the Redskins who won the Super Bowl that year and repeated the feet a couple years later.  The Steelers would take some time before they started getting good again and then when they started making the playoffs finally, they would break your heart.  It wasn't until 2005 that they would put a ring on it while I was a fan.  But for years we could only point to the 70s and talk about old curtains and wipe our tears with our terrible towels as Coach Cowher would get us to the dance year after year but the ring would slip away.  It could have been worse, I could have chose the Eagles who always seemed to get to the playoffs but have yet to win the whole show.  No my choice was definitely not bandwagon.

Then in 1996, after almost a decade of rooting for the Steelers, Baltimore finally gets a football team.  And who do they get?  The Browns who were one of the Steelers' most hated rivals.  I had the choice to jump ship to the new team or remain loyal to a team that had broke my heart so many times in the past.  I am loyal to a fault.  And despite all the gruff I would get, I chose to stay a Steelers fan.  It didn't hurt that many of my friends were Steelers fans and I worked in a Steeler friendly bar.

But ever since you came along, I could care less and less with regards to the NFL.  Being a fan and living and breathing football seems to bring on problems.  It brings on drama; it cause family discourse; it eats up precious time; it requires effort; it can create sadness and disappointment; and it costs money.  It just doesn't seem worth all of that to be a fan of any team much less an out of town team.  So much so, that I even mentioned to your mom that it might be time to switch to being a Ravens fan.  At least then it would be less discourse and I would receive less flack for something I am losing interest in anyhow.  She looked at me with what I can only describe as "divorce" eyes.

Well the Ravens had a bit of a rough go of it last night losing 49 to 27 to Denver.  That, in and of itself, would never dissuade me from switching my loyalty.  Winning doesn't matter much to me.  I stick by teams no matter their record, as proven by my loyalty to the Baltimore Orioles.  What did disturb me was the buzz on social media.  Assumed true Baltimore fans turning on their team in one game.  I understand being upset and unhappy.  Your team lost and having a 37 year old (which supposedly is too old for a super bowl level quarterback unless your first name is John and your last name is Elway or Unitas) go for 462 yards and 7 touchdowns is a bit gut wrenching.  Still the level of abuse that the Ravens receive from fans is extraordinary.  Even Steelers fans don't talk that bad about the Ravens team.  Then to see the infighting between Ravens fans, yelling and screaming through their posts about who should be fired and let go and who doesn't know football etc etc.  That made up my mind that I don't want to be associated with that hot mess.  I decided to not jump from frying pan to fire by sticking with my current team.

As you grow up, you can pick whatever team you like to root for.  Your mother will suggest the Steelers but I will probably confuse you and suggest you pick your hometown team even though I root for another.  Your Grandpa Leo will tell you to pick the Packers but that is because he thinks the cheese head is the coolest fan apparel out there and he likes that they are a community owned franchise.  But whatever you do, whatever team you pick, whatever the reason, don't let it cause you any misery or grief.  Remain loyal but remember that in essence you are watching grown men play a game for millions of dollars.  If they win or lose really shouldn't effect your life as there are so many more important things, so even after a rough loss, stay classy.

Sincerely with love from your dad,


  1. Even though Baltimore had the Colts, it seems that the Baltimore Raven fan base is at best adolescent in their treatment of the Ravens. The Steelers fan base seems to have a bit more of a level head, but perhaps I just don't read enough Steelers blogs?

    1. Chris, I am sure any team has its share of fair weather fans. It is just that 26 year drought between 1979 and 2005 (or 18 year drought as me as their fan) that taught Steeler fans how to deal with disappointment. Perhaps the Ravens spoiled its fan base by their results and the little 12 year break between championships wasn't enough to humble them. I know I got a little more cocky and expected a ring every 3 or 4 years after 2008 win...but somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice reminded me that it is a gift and not to get too drawn in.