On this Super Bowl Eve I find myself reflecting again on the first Super Bowl I ever watched. It was Super Bowl V between the Baltimore Colts and Dallas Cowboys: I distinctly remember watching the Colts beat the Cowboys on a 10-yard Jim O’Brien field goal. “The Colts–what a boring team,” I scoffed, “Who could ever cheer for them?” Little did I know that I would eventually become a diehard Colts fan, albeit after the franchise’s notorious move to Indianapolis. I was drawn into following NFL football that year (1970) by two of my brothers, and my hometown Detroit Lions had a very good season, making the playoffs as the NFC wild-card with a 10-4 record. However, Dallas edged them 5-0 in the first round. I cried. But I was heartened a few weeks later when Dallas got theirs against the “boring” Colts. Misery loves company—even for a 7-year-old.
Despite my following the game closely for more than four decades since, I recall that 1970 season better than any other NFL season. It made a huge impression on me at several levels. One game between my Lions and their division rival Minnesota Vikings was especially crushing. Yet it was not as devastating as the one the week before against the New Orleans Saints, who upset the Lions on a record breaking 63-yard field goal by Tom Dempsey as time expired. It haunts me to this day though, again ironically, I eventually became a Saints fan, too. I know, I need therapy.
So what is it about this game that fascinates so many of us, even to the point that we find ourselves watching highlights of old games on You Tube, reliving the most heartbreaking losses of our sports fan lives? I have no idea. Aristotle would say it’s about catharsis—purging negative emotions through experiencing (or re-experiencing) the “tragedy” of tough losses. Perhaps. Maybe there is some other explanation. All I know is that I’m an addict of NFL football and will be for life. And tomorrow’s Super Bowl will be yet another opportunity to revel in the biggest game of the year. Regardless of the outcome, it’s another chance to take solace in the fact that a lot of other people share my disappointment that our teams didn’t win it all this year. Like I said, I need therapy.
Oh, and by the way, I’m picking the Ravens in the game tomorrow: 23-20. In overtime!