I didn't watch a single moment of a single NFL football game all this past season.
In fact, I don't think I've watched more than five or six minutes of professional football over the past six years or so. Kids take time away from everything, and professional sports outside of soccer is something I'm more than willing to sacrifice.
But I watched the last half of the Super Bowl yesterday.
For an odd sort of reason.
I used to care about pro ball, back when I lived in Chicago in the mid Sixties and early Seventies as a nine-year-old kid I loved Gale Sayers, understanding dimly that this was a brilliant athlete living the ultimate nightmare of team sports; trapped on a supremely, crappily, brilliantly mediocre team and hammering the life out of his body in a violent welter of pointless stupidity.Later I moved to the East Coast in time to miss my Philadelphia Eagles' appointment with black-and-silver destiny in the 1981 NFL championship. So I understand a lot about loving and losing, of seeing a team you care about batter itself senseless.
New Orleans has had that in spades. When I lived and worked in Houston the team there was called "The 'Aints", they were so awful, and their "fans" would turn up at games with paper bags over their heads. My friend Zach, the cajun mudlogger out of Lafayette, LA, called them "TheLowlySaints" as a single word so often that we started just referring to them as "The Lowlies" ("How many points did the Lowlies lose by yesterday?" "Thirty" "Well, damn, they beat the spread - that's almost like a win...") So the very notion of a New Orleans team in professional football's championship seemed fantastic enough to be worth watching.And on the other side of the line of scrimmage were the Baltimore - sorry, the Indianapolis Colts.
While I don't care anything about NFL ball anymore there are two organizations I still hate and loathe above anything sentient in the universe. The Dallas Cowboys, because they are the Dallas Cowboys; over-entitled, smug, whiny "America's Team" bastards.
And the Colts, because of Bob Irsay.
For those of you who don't remember the man, Bob was an oversize wart who managed to go from a 1% partner in the Colts organization to owning the entire outfit. He was a mean, quarrelsome, pigheaded, spoiled, self-important little shit who was one of the earliest sports franchise owners to try and stick a metropolis up for the cost of a new place to play a kid's game and then ran off literally in the middle of the night when he couldn't get it.
He's dead now, and I understand that his son Jim, now the owner of the franchise, is a decent man who tries to make up for the evil shit his father was. And with any sort of justice the old man is tied to some heinous device in the Pit of Damnation where the minions of Satan repay him after death for the wrongs he did in life.
But I like to think that you still end up paying your karmic debt up here, too.
So I really wanted the Colts to get hammered yesterday.
Not really because I cared that much that the Lowlies would win - although it'd be nice to think that a professional football championship might help jump-start the process of getting the Crescent City back to where it was before Hurricane Katrina chop-blocked it (as well as getting some sort of head start on preparations for the next hurricane...) - but because I wanted some justice executed on the spirit of Bob Irsay. I wanted the spiritual crows to come home to roost on the corpse of the Colts franchise.
I wanted revenge for Baltimore.
And it was sweet.
It helped that the game was a good one. When I think of the NFL I mostly think of endless commercials, "TV timeouts", long huddles and faceless players running on and off the field. All the teams look alike to me, all the sets and plays seem the same. Unlike soccer, where different teams often play VERY different styles, and individual players' unique skills can change entire games, the NFL always seems very corporate, very plastic...very distant.
The half of the game I watched Sunday went quickly - it seemed like both teams ran "hurry-up" offenses. The lead changed hands several times. It had two huge dramatic moments - the onside kick that opened the half and the interception that ended it. Very good sport, very good entertainment.And crucially, delightfully, the Colts went home losers on a big interception and touchdown after having gone in at the half leading. It was all there in the slumped shoulders of Peyton Manning, the Colt QB, walking off the field as the New Orleans sideline erupted.
The slump of his defeated shoulders made me picture the hottest pit of Eblis, where barbed demons torturing the twisted soul of Irsay paused to giggle and turn the big screen Satanovision to his agonized face, gleefully chanting "Colts lose! Colts lose!" before basting him again in searing battery acid, and I grinned at the thought of Bob Irsay weeping in Hell.