How to hate football and still love Denver.
On a sunny saturday afternoon this past winter, with the city streets outside my Ballpark apartment uncharacteristically quiet, I flicked on my TV and clicked around until I found what was keeping Denverites inside: the Broncos’ divisional playoff game. Compelled by a desire to be in the know, I settled in to cheer on Peyton and the boys.
But before the second overtime ended (and we lost), I was off the couch folding clothes and washing dishes. Come Monday, I’d forgotten all about the game. My coworkers’ disappointment, though, was evident as they continued to rehash the game in mournful tones. It was as if they were all grieving a breakup that I was already over.
As we approach another season—my ninth in Bronco land—I’m faced with a difficult task: How do you tell your beloved adopted city, one in which seemingly every citizen lives and dies by the Sunday scoreboard, that you’re just not into football?
It’s not that I don’t like sports. I’ve played competitive volleyball since I was 10. I scream at the TV and sling plenty of not-to-be-repeated remarks at the officials during NHL games (thanks to my Canadian roots). At first, I thought my indifference stemmed from a lack of knowledge about what was happening on the gridiron, so I made an effort to learn. I peppered my friends with questions: Why’d the ref just blow the whistle? What’s the difference between a punter and a kicker? So in the pros, a player can get up after falling if he’s not touched, but in college, once he’s down, he’s down? Eventually, I grasped the rules and some of the nuances, but I didn’t feel any different. The reality, for me, is that football is flat-out boring.
Unlike hockey, where there’s constant action, football is s-l-o-w. Whistle after whistle. Break after break. Commercial after commercial. In fact, the Journal of Applied Physiology found that the average hockey play lasts close to 40 seconds; in football the average is just four seconds, according to the Wall Street Journal, followed by up to 40 seconds of nothing before the game gets moving again. It’s hard to stay interested when someone hits the pause button every few seconds.
But perhaps the worst part about football is the timing of the games. During one of the most glorious seasons of the year, when cooler temps make the city and the mountains equally enjoyable, football eats up the best days of the week, what with Sunday games—and now even Thursdays—plus college games on Saturdays.
For a long time I was embarrassed about my aversion. This is, after all, a state that likes to think of itself as one of the pro pigskin capitals of the United States, where the waiting list for reserved season tickets is more than 40,000 strong. And I wanted to fit into the city I have called home for nearly a decade.
But over the years, I’ve discovered there are other ways to connect with Colorado. While football is part of what makes Denver, well, Denver, I chose to live here for reasons that have nothing to do with the sport, like hikes in the Front Range and weekends at Wash Park. The crisp, clear fall months—when football reigns—are also some of the best times to engage in those uniquely Colorado activities. So this year I won’t spend my Sundays inside, scrubbing dishes and cursing one of Denver’s quintessential experiences. Instead, I’ll be outside, indulging in another, which I’ll likely have all to myself.