I've never been a football fan. Yes, like so many other geeks, I've just never seen the point of a spectator sport. To me the whole concept of getting all worked up about some game that has nothing to do with your own life seems rather lacking.
A game is not something that one goes out and watches. A game is something that one sits down around a table, or has a controller in-hand for.
In 2000, however, my eyes were opened. Despite the fact that I had not watched, cared about, or even paid attention to a report on football for my entire life, this game excited me. It was The Super Bowl.
I watched it with some buddies, who, unknown to me, had decided to just watch the game, rather than have a party. These are my closest friends.
The same guys who I play Dungeons and Dragons with once a week, who join me regularly for strategy boardgames or tactical video games. These fellow gamer-geeks actually want to watch football.
I knew it happened occasionally. Joe and Ben both play fantasy football online, which I can almost agree is an actual game, and Rob’s been into football since he was a kid, but I always thought it was his dad’s thing more than it was his own.
Sometimes, when the three of them were together, one of them would mention a play from a recent game, or marvel at the performance, or lack of performance from our home team, the Bengals, and the other two would nod knowingly.
However, this was the first time I’d discovered them actually taking time out to watch a football game.
When I discovered the truth, I almost left because in the past I had only watched The Super Bowl for funny commercials, and game time was for socializing with other non-interested people.
That year, my fellow couch occupants were all interested in the game, and the commercials were lacking creativity (although, there was a commercial featuring cat-herders which was hilarious), so I gave in and tried to watch the game.
As I watched, my friends patiently and willingly explained the rules and strategies of the game, pointing out the subtleties of the violent spectacle before me.
After awhile, I was able to understand the game behind the sport. I saw that there were tactics behind each team’s turn to run, and the players each had specific jobs based on their stats.
The sport turned into a Dungeons and Dragons game in my head.
I could see that some of the players had increased strength score, and those were used for charge attacks, while others had bumped up agility instead, and those were put in to attempt occasional ranged attacks against the opponent’s field goal, while still others had boosted wisdom scores, and were put in to lead the others, and make mid-action decisions.
One player had attempted a charge and failed his attack roll, while another player had rolled a critical success on his last jump-check, and yet another player apparently had huge bonuses to his Touch AC score.
Suddenly, in the midst of all the talk of first-downs, place-kicks, and two-point-conversions, I lost myself in the game. My sympathy for the under-dog turned into an affinity for the Tennessee team.
The commercials stopped being a source of entertainment, and became a time for discussion on the present situation of the game: What should the favored team do now? What's the history of that star player? What was the strategy behind that last run? And so on.
By the end of the third quarter, I was fully engrossed in the game, cheering when MY team touched down, frowning when the opposition balked them, and yelling at the TV when I felt that bad decisions had been made by the GMs.
When the last few seconds were playing out, I held my breath along with every football fan in the nation, and watched as the Tennessee team failed their ranged attack roll versus the AC of the end zone by a very small margin.
I felt a certain new camaraderie with my friends as I watched their reactions. I watched Ben leap into the air celebrating the money he had against the spread, at the same time Joe fell to the floor and groaned audibly about the dinner he had on Tennessee.
Holding his hands up before him, Rob commented that the next day the Tennessee newspapers could print, actual size, how much they had lost The Super Bowl by.
That game brought me closer to my friends and showed me parts of each of them that I had never seen before. This is 'team spirit' and even in my days of announcing basketball, I had never really seen what it meant to posses this spirit.
Finally, I understood. That day, that game, has stuck with me, although I haven’t seen a football game since.