It didn’t really become official until Labor Day, at least for me anyway.
The NFL opened this past Thursday night with fellow staffer Pete Sirianni’s Chicago Bears, once known as the Monsters of the Midway and the “46” defense, taking on the hated cheeseheads from Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers.
But that Labor Day afternoon, after I had finished laundry and was relaxing at home before my stint in the office, that the NFL season had become official. I purchased an Oakland-soon-to-be-Las Vegas Raiders shirt.
And just like that I found myself back in the game.
I have been a Raiders fan since the early ‘80s — in fact, the game where I fell in love with the Silver and Black was Super Bowl XVIII (18 for those Roman numerally challenged, like me) when I watched running back Marcus Allen take the handoff and race through the Washington defense for a touchdown some 74-yards later.
That made it official. And since my father in no way, shape or form raised his son to be a bandwagon fan, my allegiance to those Real Men Wearing Black has stood the test of time … sort of.
See, back in the early 2000s there was this playoff game played in snowy New England. A young sports reporter at the time, I found myself in Baltimore, Maryland, that afternoon and evening covering a double-header basketball game between the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore and Morgan State University.
I will go on the record saying this — I wasn’t happy that I was missing that game.
But when the dust settled in northeastern Baltimore, I climbed back into my vehicle for the long ride to the southern Eastern Shore with my car stereo tuned into the ESPN radio broadcast.
Everything seemed to be going well for my marauders of the midway, but then there was this play. A fumble recovered by Oakland! Nope, the officials said otherwise. I white-knuckled the steering wheel across
the Bay Bridge, but it wasn’t out of fear of being several hundred feet above the Chesapeake Bay with high winds. I was incensed at the call. I got back to the office — still having to write stories from the men’s and women’s hoops games I witnessed earlier that day — and everyone was talking about it. I saw the replay, my jaw clenched, and I sat down and churned out two game stories for the next day’s paper.
Essentially at that point — and I am sure my words have probably drifted out over the Atlantic Ocean past Ocean City, Maryland, at this point — that I was done with the NFL.
How could trained officials make such an egregious error?
So, I quit watching the NFL for nearly two decades.
It wasn’t until about three or four years ago that I even paid attention to the NFL. But, Sundays for the next few months I will be tracking the Raiders — and probably laughing at their wildcard wide receiver with the partially frozen feet.
Brent Addleman is assistant editor of the News. His column appears on Saturdays. Reach him at (724) 654-6651, extension 619 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.