It's that time of year when, at a certain time of day on most Sundays, there's no traffic and at most stores there are no lines.
As an adult, I've grown to enjoy football, but I'm hardly passionate about it. As a result, I sometimes find myself out and about during a game and the thought crosses my mind: "Sure is quiet in these parts." Then I'll remember the answer to Ray Lewis' what-time-is-it question during the lead-up to what was being called Festivus: "Game time!"
Like I say, I enjoy watching the game, but I'm a fairly casual watcher. If the Ravens aren't winning, I'm apt to go an do something else. Part of the reason has to do with not wanting to watch a losing effort. Part of it has to do with those game day superstitions: If they're doing poorly when I'm watching, maybe their karmic situation will shift if I, a fair weather fan, take my lackluster mojo somewhere else.
Strangely, sometimes this works. I turned the game off Sunday when the home team fell behind in the first quarter because they were playing like the junior varsity squad. I was pleasantly surprised to check back later and find they were ahead. Best to let well enough alone, I thought. No watching, I'll just check later to see how they did.
In my mind, I did my part to secure the victory by not watching, even as I was halfway paying attention.
Maybe next time will be different and I'll be able to take in the whole game.
Still, I'm happy to make such sacrifices for the team because there was a time when I really didn't care. It baffled me that, in the last bad years when the Colts were in town, friends and associates held out hope each season that, if only they would start winning, they could secure a wild card spot in the playoffs.
For me, it was all about outdoor sports: fishing, a little bit of hunting, hiking and, from time to time, a smattering of boating, outdoor photography or even trying to sail. In all honesty, I'd still exchange an afternoon of watching football for an afternoon of any of those activities (except maybe the outdoor photography because it's so frustrating).
Possibly my cavalier attitude about football comes from growing up in a baseball household. Though my dad's primary sports interests have generally been those that involve the great outdoors rather than the field, pitch or diamond, he was a talented baseball player in his youth. When I was a boy, I can remember him being the best player on the diamond at church picnics. He couldn't pitch, but he was a heck of a first baseman.
The diamond talent gene, by the way, skipped my generation, but my daughter grew into a softball player to be reckoned with.
Baseball was always on TV when I was a kid. Football never was. The exception was during extended family gatherings. I thought the level of focus uncles attached to football was unusual; it turns out my experience was fairly unusual.
I got to enjoy the sport when the Ravens came to town. It was nice, I thought, to have a home team that, like the Orioles of my youth, could be depended on to win enough games to keep it interesting. I knew the rules, and had an understanding of some basic strategy from those family gatherings, especially the ones on Thanksgiving, so it was easy to relax in front of the TV and take in the spectacle of the contest, especially if the weather makes going outside uninviting.
On the other hand, the weather, especially in this early part of football season, can be particularly inviting, so I won't feel bad about missing a game or five. It's actually an easy decision for me because I know I won't have to wait in line, or be crowded out of my favorite fishing spot. It's heresy, I know, to the dedicated fans. Still, I will be checking the score and hoping for a win.