Every year at about this time, I’m the giddiest person I know. Because after months of subsisting on other sports, it’s finally time for football.
I’m one of the biggest football fans I know, but there’s one huge problem: I’ve never had an NFL team to call my own. I’m hoping my fellow football fans can help me with that.
How did I find myself in this predicament? It’s a funny story (okay, not really that funny, but I’ll tell it anyway). When I was born in West Texas my father, an Army doctor, was a huge Cowboys fan. Some of my earliest memories were watching the guys with the cool stars on their helmets, but it turns out dad was a Cowboys fan because he loved their legendary coach, Tom Landry. When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fired Landry in 1989, he also crushed our love of the team. (I’ve tried to explain to my dad that by firing Landry and hiring Jimmy Johnson, Jones set up one of the great dynasties in all of sports. Dad retorts that loyalty is more important than wins. He’s right.)
So about the time we settled in Chattanooga, Tenn. I was a football orphan. That did not mean that I didn’t love the game–I played it for ten years in a state where football is almost bigger then religion. But I never had a real pro team to call my own. When we moved back to the South, the Atlanta Falcons were barely recognizable as professionals.
And besides, we lived in Tennessee. What about the Titans? Good question. When the Houston Oilers moved to Memphis in 1997, I was in high school, still young enough to adopt them as my own. But for two years they were called the Tennessee Oilers (we don’t really have oil), and to add insult to injury, they kept the heinous baby blue uniforms with the oil derrick on the helmet. Somehow I wasn’t buying it. When they finally changed the name to the Tennessee Titans, complete with a cool logo and tasteful integration of baby blue into the color scheme, I already had one foot out the door to college. Nothing, not even the Music City Miracle could really make the Titans my team.
In college, I lived with guys who pulled for a smattering of teams: the Giants, the Redskins, even a Canadian guy who talked about the Grey Cup (to our supreme confusion). Every fall I watch football as much as humanly possible. I tend to root for my friends’ teams because I like my friends. As a Tennessean, I love Peyton Manning, and at the moment my roommate is a die hard Chicagoan, so I find myself cheering for the Colts and the Bears fairly often, but absent Peyton and keeping our apartment happy, there’s no reason for me to love either of those teams.
When the lockout finally ended, I decided that this season would be different and I would finally pick my team. I always assumed that when I got married, I’d adopt my wife’s team and raise my kids accordingly as die-hard fans. But as marriage is somewhere in the distant future, it appears I’m on my own.
Or am I? With your help, dear readers, I have four weeks to pick my team. I’ve always loved the history and culture of teams as much as the players, and I believe you can love a team even if you’ve never lived close by. So tell us why you love your team. What makes them better than the other 31 teams out there? If I’m going to take my love of the game and channel it into one franchise (and spend my hard-earned money on their gear), I need to know what makes them truly the best. With your help, by the time the Packers kick off against the Saints on September 8, I’ll finally have a team to call my own.