I have been a sports fan for as long as I can remember.
As a youth I formally played baseball, ran track and boxed until I decided I really valued my brain cells more than winning a bout; and informally we boys on the block played stickball, soccer, football (sometimes even tackling each other on concrete), basketball, and anything else that required us to run, hit, catch, or fall.
In fact, I am a writer partially because of sports. When I was a boy of no more than 8 or 9, my mother began the practice of taking me to the Jersey City Public Library, the Greenville Branch, as often as she could, usually on Saturdays as that was her day off from work. My mother would sift and read through the local newspaper while my imagination and I were allowed to run wild amongst the stacks of books. And the first ones that grabbed my attention were sports books. About the history of my beloved New York Yankees. About the golden eras of baseball and football. I memorized a plethora of facts and figures because these larger-than-life characters, with names like Red Granger and Joe DiMaggio, and Jackie Robinson and Jim Brown, were utterly heroic and magical to me. Without a doubt I was so enthralled with sports that I made it a point to watch every televised baseball or football game I could, and actually learned the rules to almost every single sport, including ones I did not play, like tennis, golf, or hockey, just because.
And outside of the World Series, the Super Bowl was the spectacle to anticipate every single year. The very first one I watched, as a child, was Super Bowl X between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers. That game is the reason why I became a Cowboys fan for over two decades (today I root strictly for New York area sports teams), although the Steelers won because of those acrobatic catches of game MVP Lynn Swann.
I have not missed a Super Bowl since, 34 years and counting. I saw Jackie Smith drop a potential game-winning touchdown for the Cowboys in the rematch with the Steelers a couple of seasons later. I saw Jim Plunkett raise from the dead his career and create a legacy for himself as a Raider. I saw Joe Montana coolly win four Super Bowl rings of his own. I saw Doug Williams become the first and only Black quarterback to lead his team (the Washington Redskins) to a Super Bowl victory. I saw the Buffalo Bills lose four consecutive Super Bowls, undermining their great Marv Levy-coached teams. And I saw my New York Giants shock the New England Patriots, and the world, via David Tyree’s supernatural “helmet catch,” crushing the Pats quest for an undefeated season. Truth be told, the Super Bowl has become as integral a part of American culture as Christmas, “I Love Lucy” reruns, Coca-Cola, Disney movies, and the music of the Gershwins. It is an unofficial holiday for us, and, in many ways, our post-modern edition of the Last Supper.
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Kevin Powell is a public speaker, activist, and author or editor of 10 books, including Open Letters to America (Soft Skull). He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>.