It all started with a hat. I remember growing up in my little house on MacDonald Drive in Aurora. It was simple; I didn’t follow hockey, I could care less about basketball (because I was awful at it), and my only interest was a struggling Blue Jays team that spent its days in the basement of the AL East. But I’ll never forget my older brother Kevin and his Oakland Raiders hat. He was a huge football fan, and I looked up to him so much that I wanted to be a huge football fan too. The problem? I needed a team. So I thought...why not start with a hat?
I remember being in the local sports store and I was immediately drawn to the big green and yellow “G” of the Green Bay Packers. I had never heard of Ahman Green, Donald Driver was some guy I associated with a duck, and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila was just a guy with a cool name. Oh, and this Brett Favre guy was pretty good too...Next thing you know I am Green Bay’s biggest fan. Every year for Christmas and Birthdays if it wasn’t a Jersey, it was a pillow or Packers road sign I could hang in my room. I became a Packers Fanatic...and it all started with a hat.
I carried this trend through most of grade school and a little bit into high school, but that is when every other sport caught my attention; I’ll never forget when I first fell in love with the Leafs after they lost their first 11 games of the season...little did I know. But with baseball, hockey, and basketball taking all of my attention, football fell by the wayside. All those players I had spent years learning meticulous stats and yearning for playoffs dropped off the radar. And the Favre guy played for some team called the Jets. I’d spend high school watching the Superbowl at friends houses, picking teams to win based on nothing more than the colour of their jerseys. And then a dear friend introduced me to something that would change my life forever...Fantasy Football.
My first season was atrocious, I started paying attention to the draft that year and heard this guy Andrew Luck might be pretty good, and since he went in the first round in real life, why wouldn’t he in fantasy? I quickly learned the answer. I’m pretty sure I only won one or two games so I promptly erased that season from my memory. I vowed I would never have such a dismal season again, and thus the research began. I started watching every game, tracking every player, knowing every team’s red zone tendency. I put in some serious time into this game...and it all started with a hat.
But naturally, when you start paying this much attention to a sport, people will eventually ask you who your team is. I didn’t have one. I was more than happy watching the game just for the sake of the game (and my fantasy team) but people kept asking. I decided I didn’t want to turn back to the Packers, all my favourite players had left and there was some guy Aaron something throwing the football now. In strolls in my good friend Conny. Conrad is one of the biggest Patriots fans I ever met in my life. Scratch that. He’s the biggest fan of anything I have ever met. His passion was contagious, and so it was decided. I’m gonna cheer for the team that everyone would label me a bandwagoner. But let them chirp, because I bet you can guess what I did next...I went out and got a hat.
For the next few years, I would follow this sport vehemently. And all of a sudden a new problem arose...how many football games have you been to?
The answer? None.
Until that one day in Buffalo.
I always promised myself that my first NFL experience wouldn’t be at New Era Field (formerly Ralph Wilson Stadium). What a mistake. A few weeks ago I made the trip to Orchard Park and it was everything. Seeing the field with my own eyes, the players with such regality. It was everything I had always been waiting for...and to think...it all started with a hat.