Part D of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, where every day this month except Sundays, I'll be talking about things I love - one thing for each letter of the alphabet.
Lovers of the NFL would be happy to note that their league is gaining traction in Australia.
Superbowl Sunday (which, due to time differences, takes place on our Monday morning) attracts bigger and bigger viewing numbers each year. You see more and more people hosting Superbowl parties, going to the pub and watching it with friends or at least following along with it from work where productivity suffers.
I like to think I was onto the NFL before it was cool.
Many years ago, on a complete whim, I decided to sit down and pick a team to follow in each of the "big four" American sports. It was so long ago that most of the research I was doing took place on Encarta Encyclopedia (remember that?). After looking up history, championship trophies, dominance and famous players, I settled on the Boston Redsox, the LA Lakers, the Detroit Redwings and the Green Bay Packers. Didn't see that one coming, did you?
It had been a tough call between the Packers, Cowboys and Dolphins. At certain points over the next few years, free-to-air TV in Australia started showing rare football games and I downloaded an app which would allow me to keep up to date with news and scores from that and all the other sports. I celebrated through the Lakers' 3-peat championship run (and made a fair bit of money from it), I kept track of the Red Sox as they hit their way to a world series win in '07 and '13 I lamented as the Red Wings made finals series after finals series and couldn't make it through to the Stanley cup playoff. But while I was interested in the Packers' progress, after a while, I realised I was finding myself much more interested in games involving the Cowboys.
So I switched. It's pretty safe to say I wasn't bandwagoning, as the Cowboys haven't looked like even making it to the Superbowl in the time I've been following them. I don't know what it is about them. Maybe it was just their list. Despite all the reports claiming how many people disliked Tony Romo, I really rated him. I liked having the twin-marquee players of DeMarco Murray and DeMarcus Ware. I'm glad that we still have Dez Bryant and possibly the most respected kicker in the league, Dan Bailey.
While the Cowboys are currently the richest sporting franchise in the world, they don't actually have much following in Australia. Everyone here seems to go for either the Broncos, Patriots, Steelers, 49ers, Seahawks or Giants. I think I've only ever actually met one other Cowboy fan, and he was American. As a result, everyone in Australia has had a chance to watch their team in a Super Bowl but me (those six teams have played in 18 of the last 22 of them). We came agonisingly close in the 14/15 season. Playing against my former favourite team the Packers, it was that catch-that-wasn't-a-catch situation in the dying minutes of the game that cost it for us. Then the 15/16 season came and we went in the complete opposite direction. I'd get up at 6:30am and watch my team get pounded. Sometimes they'd show hope, but they'd inevitably I was able to watch both of the games where Tony Romo busted his collarbone, and I don't know whether to count myself lucky or unlucky for that. I heard someone point out (and I agree with them) that it's too easy to just blame the disappearance of your star quarterback for such heavy losses each week. There's got to be something else falling down somewhere along the line.
Oh well. Like a true fan, I'll keep watching their games. While aussie rules football will always be my one true sporting love, nothing - not even that - can get me as excited as a game of gridiron. When a receiver catches a long throw or a runner breaks through the lines, I end up jumping out of my seat and yelling "YES!" to an empty room. When we lose the ball through interception... well I don't swear much, but in those cases I certainly fill my quota. I love how the game is both very simple and highly intricate and complex at the same time. I can get by on the simplest form of understanding, which is "My team has four goes to get the ball 10 yards. If they can do that, they get another four goes to get another 10 yards, and so on until they get to the end of the field." But that's as far as I can get. I have to rely on the commentators with their little annotation pens to break down exactly what worked or didn't work and why, who opened up a hole where, what was a screen and what was a blitz etc.
But there's one thing that I think above all makes me a true fan of the club.
It's that I think this year is our year.