Larry Banman – The thrill of victory never gets old
January 14, 2010
I have it in my mind that I need to care less about the outcome of games involving my favorite athletic teams. “It’s just a game,” is the mantra I chant. The players don’t have much loyalty to their fans so, I reason, why should I care enough to allow the outcome of a game influence my emotional state for the next day or two.
When I play or coach a contest, I understand the emotional grip. When I watch a game played by people I have never met it doesn’t make sense that I will allow the outcome to make me either giddy or blue. Games don’t have the same influence as they did in my youth. The 1971 AFC divisional playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dophins, played on Christmas day, was a seesaw battle of touchdowns and field goals that didn’t end until halfway through a second overtime period. The marathon game lasted 82 minutes and 40 seconds and, by all accounts, was one of the most exciting games every played.
Kansas City Chief’s field goal kicker Jan Stenerud missed a chance to win the game in regulation and he had one field goal blocked in the first overtime. Garo Yepremian, the Dolphin field goal kicker missed a 52-yarder in the first overtime but he nailed a field goal in the second overtime and won the game, 27-24. The game is also remembered for the effort of Chiefs’ running back Ed Podalak, who gained a combined total of 350 yards.
I remember the game was on a Saturday, because I was in church the next day. My best friend and I, both Chiefs fans, were so blue we went through the church service in a blue funk. He was so depressed, he didn’t say a word the entire morning. It was just too painful. As I remember, breathing seemed to be a cumbersome task.
A lot of water has flown under the bridge since 1971, and I have watched a lot of sports contests. Mostly, I have been disappointed. I am a loyal guy, so I don’t pretend to be a fan of the latest and greatest team. For example, I didn’t join the Red Sox Nation and, because I am not an avid hockey fan, I didn’t think it was right to celebrate the Stanley Cups won by the Colorado Avalanche. The true fans deserved that moment of glory and it wouldn’t have been right for me to takes somebody’s seat on the bandwagon. Other than the Boston Celtics and Kansas Jayhawks, my teams tend to be of the perpetual underdog variety. In other words, almost every one of my favorite teams has its season end with a loss.
The result for me has been kind of a philosophical approach about the relative merits of athletic competition. Primarily, that seems to have been a smokescreen.
The Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League are one of the teams I call a favorite. I have rooted for them since 1964 and, up until last year, that has placed me in the longsuffering category. Last year’s miracle season and run through the playoffs ended, of course, on an incredible touchdown catch by wide receiver Santonio Holmes of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Another reason, I told myself, to practice a little detachment.
This past Sunday I found myself watching those same Arizona Cardinals. This time they were engaged in a offensive battle with the Green Bay Packers. The Cardinals started as if they would win in a route and then Aaron Rodgers and the Packers mounted an impressive comeback. The Cardinals missed a field goal and a chance to win in regulation (1971 flashed in front of my eyes) and the Packers won the coinflip to earn the right to have the ball first in overtime. Neither defense had shown an inclination to stop the other team since about the first quarter so it appeared inevitable that the Packers kicker, Mason Crosby, would do a Yepremian dance on my heart.
The Jayhawks had lost a game (and their top ranking earlier that day) and I was preparing myself for the worst. The sun was setting outside, the temperature outside was frigid, my nap had been fitful at best and I just knew the day and evening would drag toward an inevitable gloomy end.
Suddenly, the game turned on a fumble recovery for a touchdown by the Cardinals and bedlam ensued in Glendale, Arizona and one house in Kremmling, Colorado. Amazingly, I had renewed energy and vigor. After the game, I packed 10 armloads of firewood to the backporch, I did my laundry, I balanced my checkbook, paid some bills and enjoyed a wonderful dinner and evening with my wife. Even the television shows seemed entertaining.
I guess some things don’t get outgrown.
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