I have, in the past, been fairly disrespectful of American Football.
For future reference, "American Football" is the term used to distinguish between NFL football, "real" football (or "soccer", as Americans know it), Football For Men With Hair On Their Testicles (or rugby) and Football For Men Who Can Crack Walnuts Between Their Testicles (or Aussie rules football - a game that makes the NHL look like an old ladies' tea party).
American Football is, as has been my oft-stated opinion, a game for people too scared to play a man's sport. Players strap on armour and helmets to play a sport which is, when all's said and done, rugby without the bone-crushing bits. They have rules against low tackles, tackles from behind, even rules against hitting certain players under certain circumstances. I don't care how bloody valuable the quarterback is, any player in rugby who expects to have rules against being "roughed" is clearly and definitely a nancyboy.
But, damn it all to hell, it is entertaining, and not just because of the cheerleaders, something sadly lacking from all three footballs mentioned above.
My wife is a Cowboys fan. So I've been watching and, with the new season looming, will be watching this year, too. I have kinda adopted the 'Boys by proxy and, with it, a dislike of the Eagles which existed even before T.O. and his "God wants me to win the Super Bowl" nonsense.
However, something English inside of me compells me to seek out a different kind of team to throw my voice behind.
Anyone conversant with football in general, and English international football in particular, will be familiar with the character of the English side. Nobody - especially not the English - expects us to do well. We are the whipping boys of the FIFA World Cup and the Euro Cup competitions. Sure, we show some promise early on. We usually make it through the opening games intact, even if it's only barely so. We might make it to the second round, or even to the dizzying heights of the quarter-finals. But ultimately, we'll fail. And everyone knows it. We're the outside bet, the almost-weres, the might-have-beens.
We're the Bengals.
I love the Bengals. Not only are they, geographically speaking, the closest I have to a "home" team now, but they have the coolest helmets, coolest shirts, coolest totem. They're the tigers and so fitting for someone who is an avid supporter of the Three Lions. And nobody expects the Bengals to do anything other than average, mediocre, okay or meh.
And, just as England isn't Belgium, the Bengals aren't the Browns.
So I'm throwing my support behind the big cats from Cincinnati and I'm watching this year's NFL season with a great deal of interest.
Just don't rub it in. Germany 2006 is just around the corner.
But, no matter what the implications of this shift in attitude towards American sports, two things will never happen:
The first is that I'll never accept that the winners of the Super Bowl - a competition open to 32 teams from the USA - deserve to carry the title "World Champions", seeing as any definition of such a phrase would have to include the concept of playing teams from other countries and - well - beating all of them. The Patriots are no more World Champions than I'm the World Champion of blogging beacuse mine's the best blog I post on.
The second is that I'll never watch baseball, a sport which should be banned under the Sports Should Not Suck Arse Act of 1968.
Well, it would, if such an act existed.