Super Bowl LI

Taking a break from my political rants to talk sports — and a hometown connection

When it comes to Super Bowls, the last time I had a dog in the fight was 1988. That year, Doug Williams led my Washington Redskins to an impressive win over John Elway and the Denver Broncos, 42-10. The Redskins entered the second quarter of that game down 10-0, before putting up 35 points and ending the half up 35-10. We actually taped that game, and I watched that second quarter over again many times. It was glorious.

By 1992 — the next (and last) time Washington played in a Super Bowl — I had moved halfway across the country, graduated from college, and was a newlywed. I had stopped following football while at school, and that Super Bowl Sunday — as Joe Gibbs hoisted the Lombardi Trophy barely 200 miles away — my wife and I were moving from our efficiency into a one-bedroom apartment in Fargo.

By the mid-1990s, I started getting back into football and began following my new local team, the Minnesota Vikings. The football gods have never looked too favorably on the Vikes, and none of that has changed in the years I’ve been following the team. Good seasons, when they happen, end in heartache, typically on the foot of a kicker or the arm of a quarterback trying to throw across his body. Sometimes, they just end in a complete team collapse and drubbing.

Despite my own teams’ woes, I have rooted for certain teams in certain Super Bowls. The Baltimore Ravens come to mind. Twice. But that was from the fringes, not as a die-hard fan.

This time around, I find myself in similar straits. I'm not an active fan of either team, but I will be rooting for one to win because of a local connection to my childhood home.

Dan Quinn, the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, is a Salisbury University alumnus. In fact, he went there at the same time as some of my high school and childhood friends. In addition, one of my high school friends served as an Atlanta Falcons cheerleader back in the day. A couple others live in Atlanta and are active Falcons faithful (including one who fully embraced her SU connection to her favorite NFL coach, even when her beloved team was struggling last year).

The Falcons — as every Vikings fan all-too-painfully remembers — are the team that knocked the 15-1 Vikings off in overtime to advance to Super Bowl XXXIII. Piss poor clock management and the only missed field goal of the year by Vikings kicker Gary Anderson both contributed to the loss. Ironically, the Falcons also faced John Elway’s Denver Broncos, but this time the Broncos came out on top, winning their second straight Super Bowl in Elway’s final NFL game.

But that was 18 years ago. Tom Brady was still a year away from being drafted in the sixth round by the New England Patriots, whose bandwagon still had plenty of room for those who would soon start jumping aboard. So while the Falcons were on the winning side of my most heartbreaking moment as a Vikings fan (Favre's cross-body throw in New Orleans is a close second), this is not that team, and the Vikings' woes exceed by far any one single game or one letdown of their fans.

So I will be actively rooting for the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl tomorrow. For my friends and for my hometown.

Stepping down from my soapbox and depositing two pennies in the jar…

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