As far as I can recall, my first experience with American Football came thanks to my cousin's Sega Mega Drive, which, when it came out, was the coolest piece of equipment on the planet (and the controllers had three buttons). I cannot recall the name of the game, but I do remember him letting me play it for a while; I recall the intrigue I felt, and the thrill of a play successfully executed. Then, for years, nothing. New Zealand, like any country which is not the US, is not massively inundated with NFL news or coverage, and I grew up on a steady diet of football (real football, that is), and rugby.
About this situation, I have no complaints, since the above-mentioned sports are still my two favourites by far, and probably always will be. Like anyone who goes out into the world and lets themself be affected by it, I altered. Through my late teens and early twenties, as my tastes evolved and changed, I grew up and opened myself to new musical genres and new cuisines, and so too I began to watch different sports and see how I liked them. They weren't all great successes (see: handball), but the intrigue I held for 'gridiron', as it was sometimes known, remained, sown away in my mind, waiting for the right conditions to sprout.
As it turned out, the right conditions for sprouting were simply coverage of matches on TV accessible to me, and a team to get behind. One naturally followed the other. Since I discovered NFL on Sky Sports last year, and began randomly watching a game or two (or more accurately, a play or two, since the stop-start nature of the game at first annoyed me), I realised I was going to need a team to cheer for. It's just not really my style to watch a game and cheer for no one (unless it's two teams I hate, like Spurs and Liverpool).
So then, which team to choose. I don't want to look like a glory hunter, given yesternight's events, but I plumped for the Ravens. Well before they were a decent shout for the Super Bowl, mind you. Why? Well, for a start I am fascinated by Baltimore, due to my introduction to The Wire, and other media following on from that fantastic show. But also because ravens are excellent animals, one of my favourites. The final link in the chain was the Poe connection, which makes Baltimore an even more fascinating city still.
Fast forward through a great season and some exhilarating playoff games, to me sat nervously on the edge of my couch watching the Ravens give up seventeen straight points, having been comfortably 28-6 up on the other side of a freakish power cut. Even though I'd only been a fan of the team for a season, I already felt the rising tension that Ravens fans must have felt as the 49ers began to surge back into the game. The Ravens, though, held their nerve. They fought back with a couple of courageous plays, and their defence in the red zone during the final minutes was second to none. A smart move forcing a safety, a punt, and it was all over.
I cheered, but not too loudly, since everyone else in my flat was asleep at 4am, and waved my arms like a lunatic. What a ridiculously tense game, what a great performance by Lewis, Flacco, Bouldin, and Jones, as well as the rest of the Ravens lineup. Oh, and I hit three of my five bets, too, which helped make things even sweeter. I turned off the TV and sank into bed, tired but still buzzing from the excitement and sheer nervous energy of the last quarter. And as my brain finally submitted to sleep and I drifted off, I realised one thing: I'll always be a Ravens fan.