Let’s be real clear on this – come Sunday afternoon, Peyton’s my man. I don’t know what it is about the guy, but ever since he took over quarterbacking for the Indianapolis Colts, I’ve loved him. His first season, he went 3-13, but he always remained humble and optimistic. My heart broke for him in his second Super Bowl, a loss to the Saints, when his receivers kept standing on the wrong site of the first-down markers.
This may seem strange because those who know me know my heart frequently yearns for Seattle. My first job after graduation was there. My best friend lives there. I dream of a lodge on the western side of Puget Sound, shrouded in fog, with a dock and a kayak tied to it. I would fulfill that dream if not for falling in love with someone who can’t stand rain.
But the Seahawks? Feh! This may also seem strange to those who know me (and the one who can’t stand rain) because the Seahawks are chockablock with recent Stanford grads (cornerback Richard Sherman, whose degree should be revoked, and wide receiver Doug Baldwin) and Cal grads (running back Marshawn Lynch), among others. But the Seahawks are coached by a man the mere sight of whom makes my nose wrinkle in distaste: Pete Carroll, former coach of USC.
I have seen USC crush our college teams far too many times to like anything that comes out of it. (With apologies to two of my nieces, who inexplicably graduated from the place.) Even the reversal of its fortunes, with Stanford whomping them regularly over the past few years, hasn’t dissipated the bad taste in my mouth for Carroll.
And of course, the Seahawks now being a powerhouse that has the 49ers number, at least in the Clink (as the locals call CenturyLink Stadium), just frosts me too. That’s why I have always traditionally rooted for the AFC team in the Super Bowl – because the NFC team usually only got there by beating my beloved 49ers.
But I also love the Broncos, in large part because John Elway, erstwhile quarterback and now co-owner, went to Stanford, but also because I associate him with the day I began to love pro football. It was January 11, 1987, a game between the Broncos and the Cleveland Browns for the AFC Championship. I don’t think I’d watched a single game that season. I was with my sister at a sports bar to watch the game, simply because it was the playoffs and it was Elway.
With five minutes left in the game, the Browns leading 20-13, the Broncos pinned on their own two-yard-line, Elway began what is today immortalized as “The Drive.” Elway took the Broncos 98 yards down the field to tie the game with 37 seconds left; the Broncos won on a field goal in overtime. My sister and I were hoarse from cheering. I loved that afternoon.
So when it comes down to it, with a whole lotta Stanford vs. Stanford, why am I going with Denver? Because as Middle Age Cranky, I ultimately gotta root not for the young guys, but for the old ones.