It wasn't until my second year working at b, around early 2010, that I finally understood football. Actually, let me rephrase that sentence. I finally understood football and cared.
Going through my first 25 years in life not knowing what a touchback was or that a touchdown was six points (not including the extra point) or why a 15-minute quarter lasted 40 minutes (which I still think is ridiculous) was pretty easy and a lot less stressful considering I didn't care if a team won or lost.
Now that I know how far Ray Rice, or whoever, has to run to get that first down or that a field goal can make or break the game, I sit on the edge of my seat during a Ravens game and thank whatever higher power there is when they win — and subsequently curse when they lose.
Before working for a publication that dedicated many issues to its hometown team, I could probably count on one hand how many times I willingly watched even part of a football game, one of which being the 2001 Super Bowl when the Ravens won.
I never got the whole thing of going to a bar or even to a friend's house to watch the game with a big group of people. If I want to watch TV and eat some hot wings, it's going to be in the comfort of my own home.
To better understand what I was watching in the newsroom when the Ravens game was on, I asked my husband to explain it to me. He kindly obliged, the patient man that he is.
He explained to me what getting a first down meant and why an interception was good (seemed kind of mean to me, to steal the ball like that). He pointed out who the players were and what the defense and offense did. Eventually, piece by piece, I started to get it. I could finally watch a Ravens game and get excited.
You still would never find me at a bar cheering with other fans, though. That is, until a couple weeks ago.
The excitement was electric, like right before a band takes the stage. Everyone banded together to cheer on their favorite team, as if their lives depended on it. And I really got into it.
I screamed when the Ravens got a touchdown and I shouted some un-ladylike words at the numerous TV screens when the Patriots scored. I genuinely enjoyed the company I was in because they treated everyone, including me, the dreaded media, like a friend. It was awesome.
And I finally understood why people did this.
There are very few instances in life where people can come together for a joint cause, for something positive, and not care what you do during the rest of the year. They welcome you as a brother or sister into their little elite group and don't judge. It's all in good fun.
So sappy for something as simple as football, but there you have it.
On a similar note, I want to thank a group of guys I've gotten to know and love over the last few months — Harford County's Bus Boys, especially Matt Andrews and Dale Davis.
Your enthusiasm is so infectious that through many conversations of what this team means to you and how being deeply involved in this culture has changed your lives that you've turned this girl into a real Ravens fan.
You gentlemen really opened my eyes to what being an avid football fan means. Not an obnoxious group of beer swigging, not-very-bright jocks I unfairly stereotyped for years, but kind and welcoming people willing to sit down with someone who doesn't know anything about football.
So thanks, boys. I'll be looking out for you next season.