VERY early days…
I was introduced to the NFL as a kid, by my Dad, courtesy of Channel 4. He wasn’t really into sports and therefore nor was I, but this was a strange, exotic game, with armour clad warriors smashing into each other at high speeds, and making seemingly impossible throws, catches and runs. I was instantly a fan.
I chose the Bears as my team. They had a cool name and uniform and they were doing rather well due to Walter ‘Sweetness’ Payton and William ‘The Fridge’ Perry. I also had my least favourite teams, again based mainly on whether I liked the names and uniforms. The Pittsburgh Steelers were always at the top of that list, with the Patriots not far behind. Unfortunately, Channel 4 stopped airing the NFL, and that was that…
So, fast forward about 20 years…
…to around 2008, I’m sitting with Jen, my recently espoused, looking for something to watch on TV, and notice that NFL is being shown live on Channel 5, in the middle of the night.
“Used to like that when I was a kid; think I’ll record it and give it a watch,” I say to Jen. I think she grunted. There was certainly no interest.
Wife Not a Fan!
I got more and more into it, while Jen would hide upstairs and complain about the noise. I decided to make an adult choice on which team to support, based on more carefully considered criteria.
I like an underdog and flirted with the Super Bowl bereft Vikings for a bit. They also have a cool name and purple uniforms! They were on a bit of a roll with Brett Favre at the helm but he left, things went downhill, and I lost interest.
Ravens Affair Begins…
I started looking at other teams again and kept noticing the Ravens. Admittedly, the cool name and best uniform colour combo in the league initially attracted me. (OK, I never really grew up!) On further inspection, I realised they’re from a gritty, working class, North Eastern coastal town, as am I (Hartlepool). They’re a bit of an underdog and have a QB with a cool name. In fact, we now have a dog named after him! They’ve also got a long, storied history as the *real* Cleveland Browns, though we’re not allowed to say that! That would do it for now…
As I didn’t have Game Pass, I could only watch occasional Ravens games, so I kept an eye on other teams and waited for the league round-up. I disliked the Panthers, mainly due to an arrogant, shouty, little wide receiver named Steve Smith. I’ve obviously since changed my mind about him!
I also remember seeing Heinz Ward injuring someone with a nasty block, and watching as he revelled in it. This helped renew my childhood hatred of the dirty Steelers. When I then found out they were “our” main rivals, and that those games are always hard fought, smash mouth affairs, this cemented my disdain. I looked forward to those match-ups in particular – and still do!
The Passion Builds…
My first full season as a fan was 2011 and I began to understand the game more fully. I realised I liked defensive play and close, hard-fought games. So, yep, I definitely picked the right team! That season ended painfully, as many readers will no doubt remember, with a Billy Cundiff missed Field Goal, against the team now known in the Muir household as the New England Hateriots.
The Deal is Struck!
By the 2012 season, Jen was resigned to my growing obsession. I convinced her to let me get Game Pass, and we made a deal: she’d give NFL a go, if I watched Downton Abbey with her. I normally hate period dramas but it was a fair swap. And incidentally, I’m now a massive Downton fan!
We watched highlights at first, and Jen initially picked the Bears as her team (cool name and uniforms!). The first game we watched together was week 3: the Ravens at home against the Patriots with a chance to settle the score after the last meeting.
Wife Now a Fan!!!
Torrey Smith had just lost his little brother in a motorbike accident but wanted to play in honour of him. This handsome, weeping, dreadlocked hero was too much for Jen. Smith played possibly the best game of his life, scored two touchdowns and helped the Ravens to a typical nail biting win. Jen was a convert. Result!!
That was an awesome season, of course, with highlights such as “Hey Diddle Diddle, Ray Rice Up the Middle”, the “Mile High Miracle” and the AFC Championship game comeback to beat the Hateriots, not to mention the dramatic, lights-out, Battle of the Harbaugh’s/ Ray Lewis’s Last Stand, Super Bowl victory. That was it: we were both Ravens for life!
In It Together!
During all those ups and downs, and since, we’ve always felt synchronised with our team. When they lose, life takes a turn for the worse, and following a win, we seem to have better luck. And we’re not just talking the several days of misery that follows a loss, compared with the lasting elation after a win. We’ve had too many weird Ravens related cosmic coincidences to mention. It gets a bit spooky. We’ve had to disconnect a bit sometimes and listen to one of Coach Harbaugh’s rousing speeches, instead of anticipating some awful turn of events! So let’s hope we get back to winning ways!
Jen and I have gone through so much joy, exhilaration, despair, and frustration together, thanks to the Ravens (e.g. Xmas Day! ). We wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s brought us even closer together. And we’ll get a chance to show our appreciation in a couple of months in London. Roll on September 24th! To say we’re excited doesn’t even come close!!!