As a little boy, I would peruse the Sears catalog at Christmastime, noting all of the things I wanted Santa to get me – because, of course, I was a good boy! One year, I stopped on the page that showed all of the National Football League gear for sale. My eyes quickly landed on a kick ass logo of an American revolutionary soldier hiking the football. That was all it took in the early 1970s. I became a New England Patriots fan.
Last weekend, the NFL Network ran highlights from all of the Super Bowls. When I turned it on, they were at Super Bowl 8 (or “VIII” for the pretentious…). Next up, highlights for Super Bowl 9.
As I watched those Super Bowl 9 highlights, I realized that this was the first Super Bowl I remember seeing. Steelers vs. Vikings. 1975. It was a gut shot when I realized that I’d been watching Super Bowls for over 40 years!
Although I was a Patriots fan by this point, they weren’t very good (they had a record of 26-58 through the 1970-1975 seasons). So for Super Bowl 9 and the very near future, I rooted for the Vikings.
I loved the Vikings in their purple and yellow. I loved that the defense was called the “purple people eaters“, and I loved Fran Tarkenton and their running back, Chuck Foreman. They got clobbered in the Super Bowl, though.
That Steelers team was awesome, and I quickly jumped on the bandwagon of the steel curtain defense – Lambert, Ham, Greene, Blount – and high-action offense – Bradshaw, Swann, Harris, Bleier… they were so badass!
As the Vikings kept making it to the Super Bowl, and kept losing (they lost Super Bowls 4, 8, 9, and 11), I quickly lost interest in them. Little did I know that making it to the Super Bowl and losing would officially become a “thing” in the 90s when the Buffalo Bills would lose in Super Bowls 25, 26, 27, and 28!
In 1976, the NFL expanded, gaining two teams – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Seattle Seahawks. I never really cared for the Buccaneers, but I did become a fan of the Seahawks – I loved their logo and loved their wide receiver, Steve Largent. Their quarterback, Jim Zorn, was also a legend – at least to me.
The remaining Super Bowls of the 1970s belonged to two teams, really, the Steelers and the Raiders. Yeah, the Cowboys won Super Bowl 12, but I never (NEVER) liked the Cowboys, so I conveniently forget about that year.
The 80s were big for the 49ers, the Redskins, and Giants – also all of whom I never really cared for. But there was one year in the 1980s – 1986 – that I had waited a long time for – Super Bowl 20. The legendary Chicago Bears vs. my New England Patriots.
No team could have beaten the Bears in that Super Bowl. There was no team as dominant as that one. The loss that my Patriots suffered was worse than the one my Vikings suffered in 1975. I rooted with all my heart for Tony Eason and then my hero Steve Grogan to just score some damn points!
After that Super Bowl, it would be 11 years of teams I hated (49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Giants) winning. I always rooted for the underdog in those games, and then, I finally had my next chance – Super Bowl 31 between the Green Bay Packers (Brett Favre) and New England Patriots.
Yeah, my Patriots lost again.
I had a chance of a lifetime when Super Bowl 33 rolled around. My friend Pat won tickets to the game, and invited me along. We flew down to Miami the day before the game, checked in to the Pepto Bismol colored hotel, and made our way to the pre-game parties. Woo-boy, we partied!
The next day, hungover, I rode Pat’s coattails as we found a place for breakfast, then made our way to the game. The Denver Broncos massacred the Atlanta Falcons, and once we filed out of the game, we quickly realized how difficult it would be to get a cab back to the hotel.
You may have noticed that I haven’t yet mentioned my hometown Detroit Lions. Although they have no place in a post regarding the Super Bowl, I should mention that I never really considered myself a Lions fan until I moved to Houston in the 1990s. At that time, it was good to root for a home team, and root for someone other than the team that represents where you currently live.
Yes, I rooted for the Oilers when I lived there. I was a big fan of Warren Moon. But each year ended in heartbreak for that team. Unlike the Lions, who have a heartbreak EACH GAME. Regardless, I consider myself a sad sack Lions fan, too.
Super Bowl 36, in 2002, finally made my dream come true. After nearly 30 years of being a New England Patriots fan, my team finally won the Super Bowl!
In Super Bowl 40, in 2006, my other dream came true – my Seattle Seahawks were playing – against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in my hometown, Detroit! Yes!
Although the Steelers won that game, I wasn’t deterred. It wouldn’t be until Super Bowl 48 until the Seahawks would win the title. Another dream come true!
The following year – Super Bowl 49, in 2015 – was the ultimate for me – Patriots vs. Seahawks! Not a lot of people could handle rooting for two teams they loved, but for me, it was easy – I felt like I had already won, and the game didn’t really matter. The best thing was that my team won! Yay, me!
A lot of people hate the Patriots – much like I hate the Cowboys. I can dig that. I think that one of the beautiful things about sports is that everyone can have passion for their own team for their own reasons. When it comes to today’s Patriots, I feel grateful every time they are successful. I wish the Lions would have similar success. But until then, as long as the Patriots are winning, I will not apologize for being a fan.
This weekend, Super Bowl 52 will commence, and I will watch like I have for the last 43 years. Chances are pretty good I will be wearing my #14 Steve Grogan jersey, while I drink my Drew Bledsoe Doubleback wine, and root on my Patriots.