What It Means To Be a Fan

This was written January 26, 2010, the week before the Super Bowl.

Yesterday morning I awoke around 8am, came downstairs and turned on Mike and Mike on ESPN2, which is normal for me. As I started into my normal routine of feeding the dogs, feeding myself, and getting ready for the day, I stopped to listen to a story being read on the show. It was about a man in New York, who is a life long Jets fan. He was in his thirties, and had little recollection of the Jets lone Super Bowl. As the AFC Championship game approached, he drove out to his father’s gravesite. His dad had just recently passed, and he was the biggest Jets fan around. He talked of his childhood memories of watching the games with his dad, hearing stories about Joe Namath, and Don Maynard, and watching John Riggins run the ball. As he set a Jets hard hat on the gravestone, he realized that this is why they were fans. This was why they devoted countless hours into something essentially meaningless.

Hearing this story sure struck a chord with me. If you know me, you know I love my sports teams. I take it very seriously, too seriously, especially the Indianapolis Colts. I have so many similar memories from my childhood. I vividly remember Kordell Stewart catching the go ahead touchdown in the 95 AFC title game after running out of bounds, and running back in, robbing Jim Harbaugh of a Super Bowl berth, then seeing Aaron Bailey drop the hail mary bomb in the end zone on the last play. This still stings. I remember 3-13, and I remember all those awful losses to the Patriots in the playoffs. But most of all, I remember my dad talking about watching the games with his dad. I remember hearing about the great Johnny U, and the 1958 Championship game, or the loss to Joe cool and the Jets, or beating the Cowboys in the Super Bowl, and Tom Matte and Burt Jones. What I wouldn’t give to watch a Colts game with my grandfather. He would have loved to watch Peyton Manning throw the football. There are so many similarities to his beloved Johnny U; it’s like history repeating itself. This year my grandmother, who has now been a widow for 15 years, received a replica Unitas jersey for Christmas. I could see it in her eyes how much she missed my granddad. All the memories from the years they spent in Baltimore and Indy together, raising their family, and watching the Colts on Sunday seemed to come back for a second, all triggered by holding a blue shirt with a 19 on it.

Three years ago, we gathered in Indianapolis to watch the big game. I will never forget that day as long as I live. I honestly remember very little of the actual game. What I do remember is being with my family. I’ll never forget hugging my Aunt and Uncle, who just days before had unexpectedly lost their only son. We cried and together wondered why it had happened just a few days before the game; a game he had hoped would come his entire life. I remember the cheering and the tears, as our boys in blue ran out the clock on the Bears. I’ll forever cherish the picture we all took together in our Super Bowl championship garb, and the celebration of our dear family members life the next day.

So as I prepare to travel back to Indy again for the big game, I feel that I’ve learned something. Sure, I hope we win the game; I’ll be devastated if we don’t. What I hope for more than anything though is meaningful time spent with my loved ones. At the end of my life when I look back I’ll know one thing: the game itself is meaningless, but the moments, memories, and bonds it creates surely are not.
Go Colts.

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3 comments

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