Free-agent fan

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I'm pretty sure I'm a rarity among fans of professional football.

I absolutely love NFL football, especially this time of year. But I don't have a favorite team. That makes the playoffs much less stressful for me, as I can enjoy the games without living and dying with every play like many of my friends.

It hasn't always been this way. When I first started watching pro football, I very quickly chose the Dallas Cowboys as my favorite team. That was 1980, and the first playoff game I remember watching was a wild-card game between the Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams. Tony Dorsett ran wild and the Cowboys won by three touchdowns. The next week, the Cowboys fell behind the Atlanta Falcons 24-10 but scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win 30-27. If I wasn't already hooked on the NFL, that was the game that did it. It was one of the great NFL playoff games of all time.

A week later, the Cowboys lost the NFC Championship Game to the Philadelphia Eagles. They went on to lose the NFC title game the next two seasons as well. By the end of the 1980s, the Cowboys were no longer a playoff contender and I had moved on to the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos, of course, were led by strong-armed quarterback John Elway, and I loved to watch him throw the ball all over the field. My allegiance to the Broncos lasted for roughly 13 years, and it was similar to my long history with the Chicago Cubs, though much less intense. In the first four years I rooted for the Broncos, they reached the Super Bowl three times -- and lost all three, by an aggregate score of 136-40. I stuck with them, though, and eventually my patience was rewarded with back-to-back Super Bowl victories in 1997 and '98. Then, Elway retired and the Broncos just weren't the same. Eventually, they were no longer my team.

Since then, I've been a free agent. There are certain teams I enjoy watching -- the Steelers, Packers and Patriots are at the top of the list. But I'm not invested in whether they win or lose. I simply enjoy their approach to the game and find their style of play entertaining.

If I were still a Cowboys fan, Sunday's last-second loss to the Packers might have felt like a kick in the gut. Instead, it felt like a fitting end to a great game. That's the beauty of not getting too attached to one team.

I will admit, if I absolutely had to pick a team to root for the rest of the way this season, it would probably be the Packers. Led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have a swagger that I like. They feel as if they can score on any play, and with Rodgers running the offense that's not hyperbolic. I don't think I've ever seen a quarterback play as well as Rodgers has during the Packers' eight-game winning streak. He seems totally immune to pressure -- whether it be applied figuratively by the magnitude of the game or literally by 300-pound defensive linemen who would like nothing better than to knock him out of the game.

Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett said after Sunday's loss to the Packers that Rodgers is one of the three greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. He didn't identify the other two, but my guess is he would refer to 49ers legend Joe Montana and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. If that's the case, two of the three greatest quarterbacks in NFL history could be facing off in the Super Bowl in less than three weeks.

Who would win? I don't know and I don't really care. All I know is it should be one whale of a game, and that's good enough for me.

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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com.