(^ Not me)
I first became aware of American Football during what you would call High School and we would call Secondary School. I guess I was 14 or 15 and my classmates were talking about the Super Bowl and their favourite team (the f***ing Patriots... ). At the time I was playing a lot of Rugby for both the school and for a successful local club and I was one of those assholes who assumes that all the helmets and pads make it a sport for wimps - real men wouldn't need to dress like police dog handlers right? Not a good start to my fandom.
Fast forward a few years and I'm at University and I watch my first Super Bowl with friends. I love strategy and deception so what I saw definitely appealed, although the length of games and constant timeouts were a bit of a turn-off. It seems the league has finally realised this, as evidenced by the recent changes announced by everyone's favourite guy Mr Goodell. I decide that I should give the sport a little bit more of a look in the following season, 2012.
Now comes the tricky part right? 32 teams, who to choose? I wasn't born in the US, and have no family or friends across the pond. I had been on holiday twice, though. I'd spent time in New York both trips but it really didn't do anything for me. It's a fascinating place but I could never live there I don't think. I'd been through Buffalo on the drive up to Niagara but come on... One place that I really loved was the Bay Area. While the typical touristy stuff is largely on the west end of the Bay Bridge, I'd been all over and seen some of the East Bay too. So which of the two teams there would I go for?
The answer lies with my ethos as a UK football/futbol/soccer fan. You simply don't pick the dominant team to follow. We love the underdog, the locals, the overlooked. If you don't have a local professional team you don't pick Manchester Utd or Chelsea. They're always good, that's basically cheating. You go for some team with character and with a bit of work to do before they'll be on top. Back in 2011/12 the 49ers were very good (not anymore HAHAHA). As much as we all try to block the memories, the Raiders were kinda bad back then. Perfect fit.
I had no way to watch games with any reliability, but I watched Carson Palmer lead the team via grainy 320p stream a few times and decided I'd picked the right team. We might not have won many games but Reggie had his plan to rebuild over several years, we had the best uniform in any sport, and a bunch of crazy fucks dressing in spikes and corpse paint.
Best fans in the leagueI made the tragic mistake of buying a DJ Hayden jersey the following off-season (I lost a bunch of weight and it doesn't fit anymore so no worries). The year after I got Mack on my back. Last year it was color rush Carr and this year it's a custom 24 Lynch, which was already in the shopping cart ready to go a full week before he actually signed.
I'm mad with excitement going into this year, and love the direction that the franchise is going. While I haven't 'earned' the success like those of you who suffered the last 15 years, I do feel a sense of superior smugness when I go to a Wembley game in the Silver and Black and see all those loser Seahawk bandwagoners with 12th man jerseys and look of sadness in their eyes. Then I laugh at the half dozen Manziel Browns wearers and go find something to drink in the sunshine!