I grew up watching and playing football.
My family didn’t go to church often; our religion was football. Every Sunday we’d watch the Broncos on TV. I remember “the drive,” “the Three Amigos,” and many tense fourth quarter comebacks in the playoffs. I’ve also watched a lot of Super Bowls.
For me the Super Bowl isn’t just about funny TV commercials and eating a tub of nachos large enough to clog the arteries of a bull elephant. The Super Bowl reminds me of playing football when I was a kid. There was a field behind Namaqua Elementary School in Loveland where I grew up. It was a hard, raggedy, dirty piece of land with no grass or goalposts. My friends and I would go out on recess during the snowy January days dressed in five layers of clothing and battle each other in the cold snow and mud for dominance of that field. The dirtier we got, the better.
During recess we stopped being just kids. We split into two teams every day and became the John Elway’s, Jerry Rice’s and Barry Sanders’ of our school. We played for crowds of imaginary fans. It was as if we were at Mile High Stadium in our heads. We played to be champions, if only for a day.
As we got older, the games became more complex. The hits were a little harder. We gradually played less and less, because it became harder to find time. Suddenly, we were young men. We had jobs, car insurance and rent bills. Parties, girlfriends and the plotting of our career paths distracted us. We split up all over the nation to go to college.
I miss those cold January days at that elementary school field. I miss the feeling of running for a touchdown and seeing who could make everyone laugh the hardest with their impression of an Ickey Woods end-zone dance. I miss the smell of our wet snow boots when we had to come back inside for class. I miss hiding behind my desk and trading sports cards while we were supposed to be listening to the teacher. I miss those friends who I hardly ever get a chance to talk to now.
Our old elementary school has been totally remodeled. There are expensive new houses and apartment buildings surrounding it that didn’t used to be there. When I go back to visit, I don’t recognize the place anymore except for the field. It is still there at the back of the playground. There still is no grass or goalposts on it, it’s just like it used to be. I’d like to think that there are still groups of grade-schoolers playing football on it today, just like I did a few years ago.
I watch the Super Bowl because I’m reminded of days when my life was simpler. The grown men that play in the NFL have a job I envy. They still get to play like when they did as boys on their schoolyard fields across the country. They played on one of two teams battling it out to be No. 1 for a single day.
And what a super day it can be.
Josh Hardin is a senior majoring in technical journalism.