Men in shiny pants running with balls

broncos_fan-300x233That’s basically the extent of my football knowledge.

I’m the first who will bemoan those immigrants who claim the superiority of ‘football’  (aka soccer)-I’d prefer an enema to watching either game – but with the recent Denver win this weekend apparently its mandatory to shout ‘yay’ and get excited about football. I can but try.

Despite 17 years in the US, I’ve managed to avoid watching a football game since I arrived. I’ve embraced baseball (drinking and chatting in the daytime while watching people spit), hockey (dudes beating each other up on ice) and even basketball (evening drinking while watching is essentially netball). I’ve caught a lacrosse game (dudes waving sticks and hitting each other) and even played volleyball. I’m not prejudiced about sport.. its just ones with the word ‘foot’ in them.

You see I’ve loathed British football (aka “soccer”) since birth and I don’t see any reason to change just because I live in another country.  Football – the worlds game – takes too long, involves very little scoring, a lot of running back and forward, obscure rules and is about as exciting as watching my dog retrieve his ball. Some players – back in the day – were exciting to watch (Cantona *sigh*), but overall, growing up in a culture saturated in the game (Saturday TV was dominated by football – on all 3 channels), I couldn’t help but hate it. And not even Beckham’s hair could solve my loathing. The boring announcers, the recitation of stats on the evening news, and my father’s butt glued to the TV weekend after weekend as men ran up and down, men in the stands went ballistic (and often tried to kill each other), and maybe, if you were really lucky, someone scored a goal. If two goals were scored – evening headline on the news. The few games I tried to watch (in the name of fatherly bonding), the scores after an hour and a half were 0-0. Paint. Drying. Leaving the country back in 1998, one of my initial joys was the complete and utter absence of football (soccer) from my US life. (the other was feeling dry for the first time in my life)

That thing they called ‘football’ here.. I just ignored it. There were 598 other channels and nobody I knew watched it Maybe it wasn’t such a big deal. Plus it was rugby season and Colorado does play rugby.

Now rugby has my undivided attention. Growing up in Wales, rugby is king. A game where men are men, and goddam, they’re violent on the field and mates off it. Most of the guys I knew growing up played rugby. Many still do – you can tell, their ears are deformed and they’re often limping or nursing bruises the size of Rhode island.  Much of my adolescence was spent watching dudes I fancied running full pelt into each other, cracking skulls and tackling each other into the mud. And that was just teens playing.

Professional rugby is a joy to watch. Burly men trying to kill each other with little else but a cotton shirt, a pair of short shorts and some knee length socks as protection.. now that’s what I call a sport. The pants aren’t shiny, there’s no padding and the game has the virtue of never having a boring moment since standing still = death (or 12 guys landing on your head). If someone’s not running like their hair’s on fire, then a pile of men are jumping into the ‘scrum’ (basically a pile on with everyone still standing), or lifting a 280lb guy during the lineout. Its ridiculously athletic, and unlike American football, there are no stoppages. No standing around for adverts or coach chats, cheerleaders or half time shows. Its a non stop frenzied maul of dudes, balls and mud. You can’t get more exciting. Plus Denver has an awesome stadium where $10 buys you hours of games surrounded by Aussies, Kiwis and Brits, plus a few informed Yanks. Plus no-one wears game shirts, there’s no face painting and you’re more likely to meet new friends in the stands, than get punched in the face.

Now American football – the times when I’ve seen in on the tv in a bar – seems to involve an awful lot of standing around. Some of the players seem very very fat. Some of them don’t seem to run much at all. They all seem very angry, but I’m not sure why. I’ve seen some players kick the ball very far, and in Jerry McGuire (my sole source of actual football plays), there seemed to be a fair amount of tackling, but with all the padding and the helmets, its hard to tell who’s really doing what. Dudes do a dance when they get to the end of the field like they’ve suddenly channeled Michael Jackson, and anytime the game seems to get moving, a whistle blows and we have to watch a replay of the 3 seconds that just happened. As a result, it takes a very long time for the ball to move anywhere and when the game gets going, the ball is in play for such a short time, you can look away and miss all of the relevant plays in the time it takes to say ‘another beer’. The endless stops and starts seem specifically geared to the attention span of your average Ritalin patient – its agonizingly slow…on a par with soccer for actual action vs. time spent waiting for action.  I think the most exciting thing I’ve heard about football was Janet Jackson’s nipple making an appearance one time. I think that tells you everything you need to know about American football. I know, I just don’t get it. I have tried (for each of Denver’s Superbowls I tried and just wound up playing with the host’s dog/children/plants).

Since Denver is now working itself into a frothing frenzy of excitement about the big game, I did consider whether I should make more of an effort to ‘get into’ the team spirit and actually try to watch the game. Give it another try. Rally and try to get excited.

But then I realized that during the game, every single resident will be inside watching the game. Leaving the slopes, the streets, the mall.. basically everywhere desolate and free for people like me to speed, ride, run and explore.  The opportunity to be where others aren’t is just too enticing. And no amount of nachos can compete with a clear blue Colorado sky, and miles of open and empty roads.

Plus the Cycling One Day Classics are just around the corner and I need to get my head back into cycling. Now cycling… that’s a sport I can get behind.

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