Once there was a seventh-grader who fell in love with an NFL team. You know, the one with the dazzling passing offense.
As a kid in Wisconsin, I was surrounded by the penitent, longsuffering Packer fanbase. It was a dreary era for the green and yellow and I knew that I didn’t have masochistic impulse to choose Packer Nation. In the Eighties, Packer fans were like the Bride of Christ, patiently waiting for his return. Meanwhile Eddy Lee Ivery was running up the middle three downs in a row, getting stuffed for a loss. I just couldn’t be a Packer fan, I wasn’t that Catholic. And yet, in this period of my fandom free-agency, I couldn’t get that root-for-the-underdog mentality completely out of my system.
Who You Are Going To Root For is an important choice for a young man, regardless of sport. I believe it’s a choice that should be made in the pre-teen years, but everyone is late for at least one party in their lifetime. Once you choose though- child please—stick with that team.
The NFL-Wisconsin was awash in shame during my formative years. It was almost a given that a young lad’s eyes would turn abroad for an extension of his identity, and most did. But there were other pitfalls: there was the glitter-tyranny of the Dallas Cowboys. Somehow the Tom Landry/Roger Staubach era drifted down from frustrated father to son, so that children of the seventies were steeped in this perverse, wanky Cowboy fanhood. With their corn-fed brawn and their metal-flake helmets, I hated the Cowboys. Damn their eyes! The other popular team to choose was the Raiders, with their silver-and-black bad-assness. Choosing adoptive awesomeness just didn’t seem sporting. “Don’t get me wrong, yeah I’m FROM Surinam but my favorite soccer team is Manchester United, GO UNITED!!!!!!!”
People choose a team that reflects their region or their character. If they are lucky, it’s both. My team wasn’t what you’d call a storied franchise like the Cowboys or the Packers. They’d never won the Superbowl, but they were always making awesome diving catches in those games they lost. Plus they had pretty rad uniforms, which one has to admit, is a serious consideration when you are thirteen years old. Dan Fouts had an arm like artillery and Charlie Joyner & Kellen Winslow were always leaping around to pull in those bombs. Chuck Muncie brought an extra big pile of awesome to the table, but the Chargers were never known for their running game.
Being a Chargers fan in the intervening 25-odd years has often seemed like a lonely vigil. They had a little Superbowl romance in 1994, which may have served as a cartoon of the old NFC/AFC disparity. The ’94 Chargers were a Cinderella Story if you rooted for them and a fraud if you were someone who actually wanted the Superbowl to be a close game. They were terrible in the red zone, and sleezed their way onto the premises through a combination of caroming, accidental-looking touchdowns by Natron Means, and the leg of John Carney, the Three Point Fairey. (Carney is still the franchise’s leading scorer.)
Recently: brushes. Excellent seasons and brushes with greatness—the Bolts made it to the AFC Championship 2 years ago, but were defeated by BeliBradyBall at the height of it’s prowess. Now BeliBradyBall is a limping, furtive thing. A successful NFL team is a ridiculously complex organism. There are so many moving parts. A team has to have mastery of so many aspects of the game, in addition to luck. Cris Collinsworth maintained that the 2007 Patriots were the best team that Ever Was (better than the ’89 Niners! better than the ’96 Packers! better than the ’62 Packers! better than the ’71 Cowboys!, etc.) and yet, they lost to a team that Believed.
Lots of people that know football 100,000 times better than I do are picking a Chargers/Cowboys Superbowl.
First they have to stop the Jets run game this Sunday.