Two years ago, I glared at my friend’s expensive TV and imagined hurling knives and bricks and live grenades through the screen.
I can explain.
I’d just watched the first play of Super Bowl 48: the Denver Broncos’ mistimed snap that resulted in the ball sailing over the head of a wide-eyed, unprepared Peyton Manning and a safety after running back Knowshon Moreno fell on the ball in the (wrong) end zone. About 12 seconds had ticked off the clock and the Seattle Seahawks were up two points.
I absorbed the disaster from a chair, decked out in orange – except for my face, my face was actually a devilish, crime scene red – as I tried to convince myself I was dreaming. Wake up, Ryan.
Wake up. Pinch. Pinch. PINCH.
My phone started chirping: Facebook notifications, texts.
“Oh man, Pfeil. #FirstPlay,” my friend Sara wrote.
“Ryan, are you watching this right now?!” my sister-in-law’s husband chimed in.
If you watched that Superbowl, you know nothing improved. The Seattle Seahawks turned that field into a wasteland of craters and mangled Broncos; a cavalry charge that got bombarded by an air strike. Final score: 43-8. For a guy who’s bled orange and blue since he was a kid, it was torture.
There were a lot more transmissions from “friends” and “family” throughout the course of the game. I have half a dozen relatives who live in Seattle. My wife’s aunt and cousins live in Puyallup. I have friends in Portland. Most of them wrote to me at least twice: gloating yarns with plenty of laughing emojis and LOLs.
I spent the next day or so in self-imposed exile, said almost nothing to anyone. Encouraging co-workers got grunts and forced smirks. Food didn’t taste right. Sleep eluded me.
And there was no one I could turn to, either. I wasn’t in Denver or Colorado Springs, couldn’t just point at a random stranger on the street and profess my pain. I was alone in my misery. My posse of Denver fans are, for the most part, almost 1,000 miles away (as the Seahawk flies).
About a week removed from Superbowl 50, I’m reminded of that dark day in Mile High City history. It seems appropriate to reflect on it, considering the opposite just happened. Broncos win, baby, 24-10 against a tough-as-nails Carolina Panthers team that was two games short of a perfect season.
I weathered the two weeks between Broncos’ AFC championship victory against the New England Patriots and the Superbowl in survivalist mode. I devoured the analysis because I don’t know any better. Their outlook was close to unanimous: Carolina wins. Offense is too good, defense is too stout, Manning is too broken.
Remember that disaster two years ago? They seemed to say. It’s going to happen again; another cavalry charge, only this time they’re going up against predatory cat tanks.
Still, part of me believed. I had to. I was Lloyd from “Dumb and Dumber” when the woman he loves says there’s a one in a million shot that they’ll ever be an item.
His response: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
Game day rolled in, and I wondered how long I could hold my breath. Then things started happening. Denver didn’t blow the first snap. They scored…points on the first drive. Yeah, a field goal, but still. Then Von Miller sacked Cam Newton and ripped the football out of his hands, which led to a defensive touchdown as a scream my 1-year-old was not a fan of erupted from my throat.
There wasn’t much Miller didn’t do that game. He was crowned MVP in the end, and rightly so. He was more vengeful poltergeist than human. Denver went home with their third Lombardi trophy.
There were no grunts for co-workers from me the next day.
This life of delusional feasts and famines, of mood sometimes being predicated on something so silly, is horrific. But some days this degree of loyalty to well-paid strangers – whether they all but die in a Seahawk-led airstrike or emerge victorious from a ground war with Panther Tanks – doesn’t feel like a choice; more of a tattoo. A choice in the beginning that’s there for life that, at best, fades slightly over time.
Together forever because.