I’m not a football fan in any sense that would do justice to a true fan. I’ll watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. I might watch the Rose Bowl, or a regular season game for that matter, if there’s nothing better to divert my attention. I did go to the games in high school and college and had fun with my friends. If “my” team is doing well, I’ll watch more than if they are struggling. I’ll readily admit to hopping on and off football bandwagons.
But boy, this year, I’m having a lot of fun watching football. Of course I’m in Seattle, and the Seahawks are just flat out fun to watch this year, as they were last year. The Seahawks’ performance has managed to create a shared sense of excitement in this highly diverse community, and that’s what sports do at their best. That’s what makes fandom fun.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not limited to sports. On a smaller scale, I remember a lot of school and community-wide excitement when my high school went all out to put on a production of Fiddler on the Roof. I remember watching from afar the shared pride and nostalgia that the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s final homecoming brought to L.A.
Great achievement can bring together communities, whether in the arts or sports or even science and technology.
But there’s something more here, and it’s something that goes beyond Seahawks nation to the NFL at large.
No matter what happens in the next few week, no matter who goes to the Super Bowl, there is an incredibly powerful narrative arc going on in the NFL, and it’s a story as old as time, and I’m not talking about a romance involving Marshawn Lynch and a beautiful woman.
See what I did there?
Let’s look at the two Conference championship games. Over in the AFC, we have a showdown between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos, led by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, respectively. They have been two of the NFL’s most dominant quarterbacks over the last decade. Both having played their entire careers in the AFC, they haven’t faced each other in the Super Bowl, but they have faced each other 3 times in the post season (Brady’s Patriots have the series edge of Manning’s Colts, 2-1) and 14 times over all (10-4, Brady).
The AFC championship game will be the latest chapter in this individual rivalry that has been compared to that between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird among others.
So that’s the AFC narrative: two great rivals clashing once again with a championship on the line.
Then there’s the NFC game. The 2012 NFL season was marked by the debuts of several promising young quarterbacks. Two that had not gotten much attention going into the season were Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers. Kaepernick led his team to the Super Bowl. Were it not for some lackluster clock management, he could very well have faced off with Wilson for the privilege. None of the other, more highly regarded rookies went as far as these two.
As luck would have it, they play for two teams that have a heated division rivalry. They have split the season series, each winning on their home field and will meet in Seattle on Sunday for a rubber game with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
If the AFC narrative is one of two great veterans with more playing years behind then than ahead, the NFC one is of a next generation rivalry that could very well define the next decade of football.
And that brings us to the Super Bowl. The AFC will send a team led by one of the game’s greatest and most respected quarterbacks. The NFC will send one led by a quarterback that could be the Peyton Manning or Tom Brady of 2024.
Will the torch be passed to this new generation of young quarterbacks, or will the veterans remain dominant? That’s yet another classic storyline.
And that’s why we watch. There are awesome stories being played out over the remaining three games of the NFC season, and when it comes down to it, they are stories that go beyond sports. They’re stories that take place in business and music and theater and science and politics and religion and literature.
Whatever the discipline, or the setting, you can find storylines that parallel those being played out on the field. That’s the beauty of a good story. It transcends obvious boundaries to reflect the human condition in a way that lets us see that story in our own lives.
Of course, I could be over thinking the whole thing. In any case, I’m looking forward to some football.
And of course…