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Tete-a-tete: Evolution of a football fan, or why I’m looking forward to Super Bowl LII

It’s that time of year again – the time when all football fans outside of New England despise us because the Patriots will be playing in yet another Super Bowl.

In the past, this news wouldn’t have meant much to me. I would’ve been proud that New England’s team is doing so well and then carried on with whatever I was doing. This year, I’m really looking forward to watching the Super Bowl, a phenomenon that is largely due to how much time I spent with Grandpa these last few years.

Football was his favorite sport to watch, especially college football, because of how quickly and dramatically the outcome of a game can change. When he came to visit during the holidays, he would manage to watch just about every NFL or college game being broadcast, including all the bowl games, no matter how inconsequential they seemed. Any time you walked into our family room from mid-December to mid-January, there would be a football game on the TV.

The one exception was the year we changed our cable package. Among the many channels eliminated were the various sports networks, which was initially no big deal. Dad might catch the odd baseball game, but that was about it for regular sports viewing in our household.

When Grandpa arrived for his holiday visit, however, our new cable package became a big problem, as he could only watch the football games on the major broadcast networks. He was heartbroken. We tried to see if we could order the necessary channels for the duration of his visit, but the cable company couldn’t do it.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to cheer up a depressed football fan who’s missing all the smaller bowl games by trying to get them interested in basketball. It doesn’t work.

As Grandpa’s health declined and Mom and I began spending more time with him at his home in upstate New York, we inevitably began watching a lot more football. Grandpa was happy to explain the game, and Mom and I found ourselves enjoying the sport more as we developed a better understanding of what was going on.

Mom, as a result, has become a devoted Patriots fan. She is extremely impressed with Tom Brady’s skills as a quarterback and watches the games with her Patriots Yearbook to help her identify the players and their positions more quickly.

She has also become very protective of Gronk. Mom doesn’t like to see any player get injured, even those the Patriots are playing against, but she gets very upset when the opposing team’s defense tries to take him out. She goes into full angry-mama-bear mode, yelling at the screen and telling them to leave Gronk alone.

I am not quite as enthusiastic about the Patriots, but I believe it’s important to consider where I started. Previously, my greatest period of interest in football was when I was in elementary school and decided to throw a Super Bowl party. I couldn’t tell you what Super Bowl it was, just that it was getting a lot of hype on the playground. We lived in upstate New York at the time, so it’s likely the Buffalo Bills were involved.

Anyway, my friends and I were all excited to watch the big game and eat pizza together – until the game actually came on. None of us had any clue what was happening on the field, and it took all of three minutes for us to get bored. Fortunately, Dad managed to locate a VHS copy of “Footloose,” and Kevin Bacon ended up winning Super Bowl MVP.

Fast-forward to the Patriots’ amazing season last year. I had a much better understanding of what was happening on the field, which made their comeback that much more incredible. For the first time ever, I watched a Super Bowl for a reason other than the halftime show. The Patriots’ history-making resurgence in the second half of Super Bowl LI had me glued to the screen like “Footloose” never did (except, maybe, during the part where they’re playing chicken with tractors).

I will definitely be tuning in for Super Bowl LII this weekend, and the anticipation has only been heightened by the outcome of the championship games. The AFC championship game between the Patriots and the Jaguars was exactly the kind of football Grandpa liked: solid playing from both teams with the trailing team coming from behind to win. It was not, however, the kind of football Mom likes, as Gronk was escorted off the field with a concussion despite her angry warnings to the Jaguars’ defense.

The trouncing of the Vikings by the Eagles in the NFC championship was painful to watch. Once the score becomes that unbalanced and the trailing team fails to rally, no one’s really enjoying the game anymore, as evidenced by the fights that started to break out amongst the players on the field.

Though it would’ve been great for the Vikings to play a Super Bowl in their hometown, it would’ve been heartbreaking for them to lose that Super Bowl to the Patriots. I’m not trying to trash-talk anyone here; it’s pretty much a fact that if the Vikings played against the Patriots the way they played against the Eagles, they would lose.

The Eagles have demonstrated, however, that they are a worthy rival for the reigning Super Bowl champs. We’re sure to see some riveting football in Super Bowl LII. It might even get to the point where I consider the halftime show an annoying interruption and wait impatiently for it to end so we can get on with the second half – after I’ve gotten more snacks, that is.

Here’s to a great game this weekend, in which all the players are “Footloose” and giving it everything they’ve got. Go, Pats!

– Teresa Santoski

Originally published Feb. 1, 2018

www.teresasantoski.com

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