Houses with antenna

I went to the final Denver Broncos preseason game last night. Why does the NFL insist on forcing captive season ticket holders to pay full price for these horrendous displays, featuring hapless fourth-stringers who will never play in the NFL?

More to the point, why do I, year after year, renew tickets I inherited from my father-in-law?

Why? Because, defying all reason, completely disregarding the stupidity of paying these behemoths monster amounts of money, willfully ignoring the damage the game does to their bodies and brains, tuning out the mind-numbing idiocy of the relentless Jumbotron noise, I love football.

Why? because I grew up in Texas, where football is more than a religion, it’s a way of life, a reason for being, as essential as air and water and food. I was too small and skinny to play organized ball for my junior high and high school teams (Go Rams!), but I must have played ten thousand pickup games. And we played tackle, without pads. None of that wimpy two-hand touch nonsense. Any open field or empty lot was a football field. Throw down hats and t-shirts to mark the end zone, and game on!

In Waco, you had to be a Baylor fan, and the Bears were mostly awful, mere fodder for the giants of the Southwest Conference, especially the hated University of Texas Longhorns. A successful season for the Green and Gold was any year they beat Texas, which was almost never. And winning the SWC, with a trip to the Cotton Bowl as the reward? Not possible. The closest they came was in 1963, when the Bears, led by quarterback Don Trull, came oh-so-close, losing a 7-0 squeaker to the eventual national champs. Had they won, the Cotton Bowl beckoned. The following year they finally got the better of the Horns, but failed once more to make it to the Bowl.

Then, miraculously, in 1960 the Dallas Cowboys franchise was born. The real deal, the NFL! Only an hour and a half drive away! This created some problems in my family, because my father, a transplanted Clevelander, was a die-hard Browns fan.

Dad took me to the Cotton Bowl that year to watch the Browns demolish the woeful Cowboys 48-7. I got to see the legendary Jim Brown, Lou (The Toe) Groza and Milt Plum in action against Eddie (The Little General) LeBaron, the Cowboys’ first QB, and a cast of nobodies.

It didn’t take long for the Cowboys to turn the corner and field a perennially good team. By then I was in Denver, and slowly weaning myself from “America’s team” and forming an alliance of convenience with the Broncos. Not that it mattered which uniform I would eventually identify with. It was football.

I was already hooked for life.