The Big Game is coming up Sunday. I get asked all the time, “Are you ready for the Super Bowl?”
Well, yes and no. Yes because I’ve done no preparation for it, no because I really don’t care who wins it.
Why? Well, it has to do with this AFC-NFC alignment. I’m a long-time AFC fan, which dates back to the days of the old American Football League. Therein lies my lack of interest in this game. You see, the teams come from the same old National Football League. I’ll now explain.
The AFL and the NFL merged in 1970. When the leagues joined, the newly revamped NFL, under the command of Commissioner Pete Rozelle, got three NFL franchises to move into the AFC: Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore – and by Baltimore, I don’t mean the Ravens. The Steelers, Browns and Colts joined the conference containing some of my favorite teams, which included the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and San Diego Chargers.
Then the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis, in the middle of the night, I should add. The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, to become the Ravens; later, a new Cleveland Browns franchise was formed. Only the Steelers (my late father’s favorite team, owing to his birth in nearby New Kensington, Pa.) have remained intact.
But as a diehard AFL fan, I’ve always considered the Steelers, Colts and Ravens (the former Browns) to be interlopers. They aren’t really and truly AFC franchises. That label, in my mind, belongs to the AFL teams that moved into the NFL. My greatest joy was watching the AFL’s New York Jets defeat in 1969 the then-Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III; my next greatest football joy occurred the following year when the Kansas City Chiefs took down the Minnesota Vikings 23-7. The year after, the Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys and my only joy there was that a team other than the Cowboys won the Super Bowl.
I’ll admit to being kind of old-fashioned in this regard. I cling tightly to my loyalties. The AFL remains a fond memory for me, as I watched the likes of Joe Namath, Daryle “The Mad Bomber” Lamonica, John Hadl, Lance “Bambi” Alworth, Lenny Dawson, Cookie Gilchrist, Abner Haynes, Buck Buchanan and, oh, I could go on forever.
If only the New England Patriots had beaten the Browns-turned-Ravens in that AFC championship game … then I’d have a reason to cheer.
But given that I have a sister who lives just south of San Francisco and who’s a devoted 49ers fan, I’ll cheer for her team. But I’ll do so with gritted teeth.