As many of you out here in blog-land know, I’m a big baseball fan and primarily, just a baseball fan. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy other sports, but more on the level of participating and not watching or committing myself to full-on fandom.
I mean seriously, if you ask me to play basketball I’m all for it. If you want me to sit and watching two hours of ball hogs, prima donnas and guys flopping to the ground every thirty seconds to draw a charging foul…fat chance.
I enjoy playing football as much as anyone. Every December 26th I play in an annual flag football game with friends in the snow and wind of northwest Iowa. Until recently, however, I’d sort of sort of grown to detest professional football. Living in Mankato for college I got to experience the Vikings’ training camp every August and quickly grew to hate the players, the coaches and ultimately the professional game itself.
Let’s be honest if Mike Tice had nearly run you down with a golf cart or Randy Moss had sauntered out in the middle of traffic expecting you to just slam on the brakes and pretend you didn’t care, you’d be a little disenfranchised as well. If you were struggling to pay rent while earning seven dollars an hour at the library and had to watch Daunte Culpepper roll up to campus to park his Hummer next to his Escalade, you’d start to get a little sick of the whole shebang as well.
Well, when we moved to Boston, I figured that with a new time zone, a new job and new outlook I would delve into the world of football with an open-mind. As I said before, prior to my yearly Vikings-fiasco, I’d always appreciated and enjoyed football. In fact, in the Graves family football goes deeper than baseball. All of my uncles played football and all of their children played football as well; a tradition that came to a screeching halt after I retired from the game following junior high.
I also have followed football—despite not really following football—for the better part of the last decade as a result of my yearly fantasy football leagues, which I’ve generally been quite successful in. As such, I figured what the hell, let’s give football another shot.
What’s unfortunate is that my two favorite football players are Brett Favre and Tom Brady (ask around, I’m not some Johnny Come-Lately on these boys) so I began cheering for the Packers and the Patriots.
You know what happens when you finally get into football and the two teams you’re rooting for are having incredible seasons? People start to call you a front-runner.
So there I am, rooting for Tom Brady and the Pats as they march toward the Super Bowl and an undefeated season. And there I am rooting for Brett Favre as he pulls out a season of inspired play to push the Packers all the way to the NFC Championship game and a heart-breaking loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Giants.
Needless to say I’ve received more than a few jeers as a result of my rally-rooting for two of the top teams in the game, but I shook it off and continued to stay committed to my newly found joy for all things football.
When the 2008-2009 season opened with Brett Favre under center in New York and—very soon after—with Tom Brady under the knife and out for the year, I received more commentary. Would I still root for Favre now that he was trying to oust my newly-beloved Patriots? Would the Patriots still be so beloved with the hope of another undefeated season out the window?
Well in what I can only describe as my best efforts to thwart all those who labeled me a fair-weathered fan or a front-runner, I continued to cheer for the Pats and for Brett despite the blatant ebbs and flows of the regular season.
So now, here we sit. January 2, 2009. The Patriots and the Jets are both going to be watching the playoffs from the comfort of their living rooms. Brett Favre may be done with football forever (again) and Tom Brady—coming off hardcore knee surgery—may never be the same player he once was.
And here I sit, with a ticket to my first professional football game ever. Not to watch my favorite player of all-time. Not to watch the Pats. No, this ticket is to a game featuring the only team I can legitimately say I’ve ever truly despised in pro-sports (yes, Yankees included).
This Sunday I will be at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis to watch the Minnesota Vikings clash with the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the playoffs.
Now this is where I must implore all of you—my faithful readers—for some advice.
What is a guy to do?!
Should I use this experience as a chance to be one of the few who regales himself by cheering against what is sure to be a raucous crowd of Vikings backers or should I take this opportunity to exorcise my football demons and cheer for the Vikings.
If you think about it, all of key components to my Vikings/football-related contempt have been jettisoned from the great white north. Culpepper is a washed-up, once-retired quarterback of sorts for the lowly Detroit Lions. Mike Tice is serving as an assistant in Jacksonville—where I’m sure he’s long-since lost his golf-cart privileges. Randy Moss—after publicly cleaning up his act—has become one of my favorite players in the vaunted New England air-attack.
I do think that the current Vikings roster is pretty solid. Tarvaris Jackson—although clearly a work-in-progress—has great potential to be a more grounded version of Michael Vick. The Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor running back combo is one of the more dynamic in the league with incredible potential to change a game on any handoff. Visanthe Shiancoe is an exciting and underrated playmaker who figures prominently into the passing game with Jackson’s style. The defense has been solid all-year long and has the ability to shut-down any offense in the NFL.
So now I question all of you…what is the right move?!
Do I root against the Vikings out of long-since-expired contempt or do I buck-up and move forward by allowing myself to root for a team that, despite my best attempts, I’ve still followed quite regularly as a result of the team’s tie to my old stomping grounds and dang near everyone who inhabits the greater frozen Midwest.
What is the appropriate football protocol?!
So I shall gather responses and make my decision by the time I leave for the stadium on Sunday…your help will be greatly appreciated. And I guess if no one replies…then I’ll spend the afternoon quietly watching what figures to be a good game whilst woofing down Dome Dogs and overpriced, under-chilled beers.