My football team, the New England Patriots, suffered an embarrassing loss today at the hands of an opponent whose coach and players had been talking all sorts of smack before game day. It was a frustrating, disappointing afternoon.
For a moment though, I’m going to go back in time six days, to last Monday night, when the Patriots came from behind to win the game against my buddy’s Buffalo Bills. It was the return of Monday Night Football and the return of Tom Brady. And I did a dance in my kitchen.
The day after the game, Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King wrote, “Time will tell if the Patriots are really good and just escaped with one, or if they’re just a member of the NFL pack. The latter’s unlikely. This team has flaws, but this team also has Brady.”
After today’s performance, I may get some sass for using that quote. But in that moment, on that night, Brady and his brand of magic were back, and this fan was left with a 24-hour high.
My love of sports started with a love of sports writing. As a teenager, I used to anxiously await the arrival of my father’s Sports Illustrated. If I found it in the mailbox first it meant I wouldn’t have to hunt for it behind my parents’ toilet later.
Once I had my hands on it, I would try to be good and read it in order. But more often than not, I flipped right to the back page, to Rick Reilly’s “The Life of Reilly” column. Reilly, who now sadly works at ESPN, is my favorite columnist of all time. So much of why I love sports, and all the good and bad that goes with it, is because of him and other sports writers who made me care about the games through the stories they told.
I have never been good at retaining stats or remembering the names of players who aren’t in the news often or aren’t on one of my teams. I don’t follow drafts, or participate in fantasy leagues. And lately, I live without cable, so no regular SportsCenter. But I love Sundays in fall. And I love the moment when you walk into a baseball stadium and the green of the grass first hits your eyes. I love filling out my brackets for March Madness. And I love the sound skates make against the ice when they come to a hockey stop. And most of all, I love waking up the morning after my team won a big game, or even a championship, and scouring through all of the fresh words set out by sports writers in the wee hours of the night.
I have girlfriends who think I’m slightly off for how much I care about my teams. For example, I bawled into my ex-boyfriend’s shirt after the Patriots failed to complete an undefeated season with a loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. We happened to be watching the game with a roomful of elementary school teachers who didn’t care much about football, and who really didn’t understand how I could possibly care enough to be shedding tears.
I have other friends who believe my love of sports will some day help me land a man. And they could be right. I swear the reason I landed my last boyfriend, or more specifically why he stuck around after a rocky start, was because I got so into the 2006 World Cup. How could he not hang onto a girl who so enthusiastically watched every Germany game?
But trying to impress men, or compete with their vast sports knowledge, has never been a reason for me to care about sports. If it was, I wouldn’t call myself a true sports fan.
The Boston Red Sox are on a hot streak right as playoff season begins. And despite the loss today, the season’s just begun for the Pats, which means a whole lot more chances for Brady magic. To top it off, I’ll be wearing my new #21 t-shirt at the Verizon Center on Wednesday for a Washington Capitals preseason game, and then again on October 3 for the home opener.
Thanks go to talented sports writers, my baseball-loving parents, my sports-playing little brother, all of my ex-boyfriends, and my hockey-obsessed college friend for making me care about the game. I can’t imagine a life without my sports love.