For the love of the game
Justin Scott // Managing Editor
The first football game I can remember watching was Super Bowl XXXVI (36) in 2002. I had seen others before, but I’m a basketball guy, so I never cared too much for the padded punishment that is American football. However, on that day, my father called me and asked me to record the game for him on a VHS. Of course, I inevitably ended up watching it myself – and what a game it was. In what was probably the only Super Bowl in which Tom Brady was considered the underdog, the New England Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams and secured a new loyal fan in me.
Since then, Brady has gone on to win four more Super Bowls, securing his title as the greatest to ever play the game. Over the near two-decade span of my fandom, the Patriots have been a mainstay at the top of the NFL. However, I can guarantee that in the future, when things inevitably get rough for the long-successful franchise, I’ll still wear their name on my chest.
All of this was my way of putting off the discussion of Feb. 4, a truly dark and disappointing day for Patriots fans everywhere. However, even the lead up to Super Bowl LII had already gone awry from what I had envisioned. With the game taking place in Minnesota, the home town’s Vikings were one game away from making history. The Vikings, the team that my father has cheered for his whole life could have been the first NFL team to ever play at home in a Super Bowl, had it not been for the beat down they took from the Philadelphia Eagles in NFC [National Football Conference] championship game.
My dad’s fandom has been a vastly different experience than mine. While the Vikings playing at home in the big game would have been an exciting first, they also hold the record for most losses in a Super Bowl, with a 0-4 record in the final. And yet, Papa Greg still dawns the purple and gold with pride. Which is why although I’m Canadian, when it comes to football, I’ll always bleed red white and blue.
That’s the thing about sports, they’re rarely just games. For players they’re a constant challenge, profession, income and love. But for fans, they’re often far more.
For many, Sunday is no longer the day of the Lord – unless the Lord dawns shoulder pads, a helmet and cleats. Sunday has become the NFL’s day. But more than that, it’s become an escape. Few events outside of sport can bring such wide and diversified groups together, forgetting their lives for a few hours and caring for nothing other than their team.
As much as that could be a lesson, that’s only where sports get started. They may teach loyalty, but they also teach work ethic and teamwork – be it a team on a field or five friends assembling their tailgate setup. They teach children that if they set their mind to something and work hard at it, almost anything is possible. Look at Spud Webb, the 5’7 basketball player who won an NBA Slam Dunk Contest and had an unforgettable career.
While I’m a Patriots fan, I had been cheering nearly as hard for the Vikings to make it to the game. I’ve seen my father go through disappointment after disappointment with his Vikings team – shout out to Blair Walsh and Brett Favre – and know his loyalty deserves to be paid off. I don’t just feel this way because I’ve seen him suffer, but because I know how much he’s given to sport.
I fell in love with basketball from a young age. My sister and I would get picked up early from school everyday because we had to be at Handsworth, where my dad coached at 3 p.m. I spent my time there shooting on the sides and watching my dad do his thing. He later went on to coach my sister and I, on all levels of the sport and run our local league to ensure it continued to exist.
He ended up winning provincial titles with Handsworth and Seymour Basketball, but never asked for anything in return, other than dedication from his players and the assurance that they were enjoying themselves. He ingrained in all the players he coached the importance of sport, not just as a competition, but as a learning experience. Learning teamwork, hard work, the importance of setting goals, but perhaps most of all, making sure that you enjoy what you do.
So, although I already have bottles of champagne with “#6” written on them in Sharpie, awaiting demigod Brady’s next ring, I hope we don’t have to wait too much longer to see the Vikings bring one home, because Greg surely deserves it.