Much has been written in the pages of this column over the last almost nine years about how much I love the "beautiful game" and the passion I have for all things soccer. Nothing will probably ever change that for me so if you are someone that reads my column on a regular basis, you will be treated to much of the same, at least in the near future.
Except for today.
Earlier this summer when I was waxing nostalgic over the World Cup in Brazil and loving life for a month while the best soccer players in the world went home to play for their national teams on the world stage, my oldest brother sent out a reminder to me on Facebook that my first real love of sports was not soccer as I remember, but good 'ol American football.
It's tough having a brother that serves as the family historian with access to a public forum like Facebook and boxes full of old family photos. It makes for an interesting weekly "Throwback Thursday" as we wait for his latest photographic gems, but once in a while he makes a valid point that you just can't ignore. This summer when he posted a photograph of my middle brother and me playing American football to show that I had originally fallen for their chosen sport, the proof was, well in the picture. There I was lined up in my best blocking stance serving as Charlie's left tackle from the eminent rush of whoever was behind the camera. There was no way they were getting through me to his blind side.
I actually tried playing American football when we first returned to the U.S. from our stay in Brazil, mostly because there were no existing soccer leagues on post but because my brothers both played football and my dad was a coach and it just seemed like the right thing to do. I played for the Ft. Bragg 49ers and was very excited on equipment day when I got to suit up in real football gear.
By that point, though, just like the first time I saw my wife at the Maryland football game, it was over. I had already fallen in love with soccer and trying to take someone who has spent the prior three years scoring goals in an attacking position and trying to convince them of the importance of the offensive line where you just bang heads every 10 seconds with rarely an opportunity to see the ball, nonetheless touch the ball, was a tough sell. It lasted three weeks before I turned in my equipment and never looked back.
But that doesn't mean I left football behind. About the same time, my intense love for and devotion to Notre Dame football began to form and the Baltimore Colts were perennial playoff and Super Bowl contenders so I transitioned to fan status.
So like many of my fellow Baltimorons and my fantasy football league competitors (really football fans across the country), I am so stoked for the opening of the NFL season this weekend that I can barely control myself. My fantasy team is now complete and the smack talking has begun among us. The Ray Lewis statue has been unveiled and it's time to open up the Bird's Nest for the fall slate.
There aren't many things that will have me up with a sleepless night and then up bright and early to take on the day but today's Ravens' home opener against the Bengals will do just that. We'll be down at the "grassy knoll" with our fellow tailgaters not long after the sun comes up (sometimes it comes up a little later in Westminster) to ring in the 2014-15 football season and do our best in the seats as the second-loudest fans in the NFL to help the Ravens bring down their division rivals. I love to watch Orioles baseball too and this year they're making it even more enjoyable to watch but there's something about being a fan of an NFL team with the passion of the Ravens' fans that you just can't replicate.
I'm not sure if it's the marketing machine of the NFL executives or that the sport is naturally made for television, but there is nothing better to do in my time off than to watch the NFL schedule unfold across the television screen. But it's even better when you're actually there in the arena.
Like former President John F. Kennedy once said, "We are inclined to think that if we watch a football game or a baseball game, we have taken part in it."
I'm sure I'll feel like it on Monday morning.
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Reach Robert Brown at 410-857-8552 at email@example.com.