One of the things I’ve always liked about watching football is what a team sport it is.
For me, the Super Bowl was always the greatest showcase of team camaraderie available. I’d get frustrated when someone would jump on a team’s bandwagon simply because of a charismatic character on a team. (I’m looking at you, Patrick Mahomes, with whom my wife and 14-year-old daughter are obsessed.)
This year, though, I switched teams on how I looked at the big game. This year, I’m learned to appreciate the individuals in the game.
My breakthrough started a coupl Sundays ago. My wife and I enjoyed a weekend in Las Vegas, not realizing the Pro Bowl was happening there. We found some reasonably priced tickets at my wife’s urging, since the stadium was so close to our hotel.
I will admit that as much of a football fan as I am, I’d never watched an entire Pro Bowl before. I didn’t like the focus on individual players. I didn’t like how running backs were recognized for their yards without realizing some linemen paved the way for those gains.
It was fun to hear fans of rival teams joke around together in the stands and show appreciation for one another’s stars of the past and present. I wore my Walter Payton jersey, and so many people stopped me to talk about their memories of “Sweetness.”
While the game itself was a bit of a bore, I still walked away having enjoyed myself. There were a lot of interviews with players on the big screen, giving them a chance to joke around and have fun. I found myself liking players such as Maxx Crosby of the Raiders and Travis Kelce of the Chiefs after listening to them interact with the fans via live interviews. Admittedly, it felt a little bit like professional wrestling, playing to the crowd as the hero or the villain, but it was fun.
That brings me to this year’s Super Bowl. While I obviously cheered for Ohio’s own Bengals, who’ve always been my “second team” behind my Bears, I found myself liking the Rams, too, for some of the characters on that team.
It starts with Matthew Stafford, the quarterback. He spent the rest of his career in Detroit, suffering through a sub-par roster with sub-par coaching but still trying his hardest to make the team a winner. In the offseason, the team worked out a trade to send him to L.A., and now we’re seeing how good he could’ve been with elite talent around him. It’s hard not to like someone who worked hard in obscurity for years and now gets his chance to shine.
On the other end of the career spectrum is Joe Burrow, the quarterback for the Bengals. He’s nailed down an uncommon mix of swagger and down-to-earth wholesomeness I can’t quite understand or explain, but I certainly appreciate it. I’ve had respect for him ever since his speech after winning the Heisman Trophy highlighted food insecurity in his hometown of Athens, where I lived when attending Ohio University. He took a moment of personal triumph and used it to shine a light on an important issue.
There are countless other good-guy characters on the rosters for both teams. It’s nice to see in a league that often hypes brash, me-first personalities, which sometimes leads to bad behavior off the field. These nice fellows make it easier to root for the individuals on the field and hope for their success.
That made a game we can all appreciate, win or lose for either team.
David Trinko is editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.