Do you remember where you were?
I mean exactly where you were. The texture of the environment, the weight of the air, do you remember exactly, in every intimate detail, where you were? This is the feeling we chase as sports fans. It’s the generation defining payoff that comes from following a team with your heart and soul and seeing something truly unbelievable. Something that takes your breath directly from your lungs and compresses that air through your strained vocal cords into the vibration of a scream. Your arms fly up. You leap like a child. This is what some fan somewhere feels every football season. Many fans actually. This is why I spend seven long months looking forward to football season and it is football season again. Go sportsball.
Now I know I am alienating myself from many readers of this blog by admitting I am a New England Patriots fan. Please accept my clickbait title as recompense. I am aware that readers of this blog are mostly that beautiful crossover of theater lovers and sports fans and I am aware that most sports fans hate The Patriots. We are one of the most divisive teams in all of sports because of whatever reason you want to scream in my face. I get it. I’ve heard it. I disagree. And yes, I said ‘we’ followed by the word ‘team.’ We are all Patriots.
But this is not why I am writing this article. Nor is it the reason why I’m excited to contribute to this blog for the NFL season. I’m here to talk about my love of football and more specifically, I’m here to talk about how that love leads to a moment that you can’t describe. One that becomes instantly immortalized in replays and lives on within you because you remember where you were. I mean exactly where you were.
A few years ago I got to witness one of those singular moments where one play changed every conversation I will ever have in a Boston bar. It was Superbowl 49 and Malcolm Butler picked off Russell Wilson to effectively win the game. Now if you are a Seahawks fan, I know your pain. The Patriots lost two Superbowls to a generation defining catch. But I hope you get to experience the awe that comes from the victorious side of that moment. I hope that every single one of you gets to experience that for whatever team you pour your heart and soul into. I hope you get to remember all the details. Because I do remember where I was when this happened…
Malcolm Butler (Left) never having to pay for his own drinks in the state of Massacuesttes ever again.
It was 4am. No, I was not watching this game after the fact. I was watching it live. I was watching it from a hotel room in Lugano Switzerland. I had been lucky enough to have been hired to write a movie and flown out to Lugano Switzerland with my Producer, Co-writer, and dear friend Alex. It was the first day of our trip and I had contacted the hotel concierge to order a channel that would play the Superbowl. We ended up watching a European stream of the game with no commercials, something I had never seen before. At the end of every play there were no indoctrinating 30 second ads trying to force beer or chips or fast food down your throat. Instead, there was coverage of the sideline and interviews with players. I remember one very specific interview with Sebastian Vollmer because he spoke fluent German and is often credited as the first German to ever win a Super Bowl. He was not. It was Markus Koch.
But the room itself was pastel and gilded and the walls were wallpaper and the double beds had heavy blankets and the large glass doors leading to the deck were open and you could see Italy on the other side of Lake Lugano and Alex my producer and roommate was trying to convince me to turn off the TV because it was 4am and I was sitting on the edge of my bed watching the end of the Superbowl with my outstretched hand telling Alex it wasn’t over. Because it’s never over until the clock runs out. But in my head, despite my insistence, we were watching the defeat of my team. I knew it was over. But this is where generation defining moments are born. When you, the sports fan, see something brand new. Something you have never seen before. Something you couldn’t describe before it happened because you’ve literally never seen anything like it happen. And then it happened.
Seattle calls a pass play on second down and the one yard line. There were 26 seconds left in the game and they had the best running back in the NFL. But, they chose the pass play and the world was introduced to Malcolm Butler. Malcolm intercepted the ball and the Patriots went on to win the game. But that moment, that singular moment was felt by me and every other Patriots fan as singularly impossible. It was felt inversely by every Seahawks fan. Part of me feels bad for writing about this moment because I know what it’s like to be on the other side of that feeling. It’s crippling. It’s a chip on your shoulder that never gets erased. It just travels further back in time as you get older and it eventually becomes a neutral memory. I know because The Patriots lost a Superbowl after a perfect season. Trust me, I know the feeling. Jamie, forgive me for this section.
But in this moment I went from sitting to jumping on my bed in under a second. I went from silent mourning to elated screaming in an instant. I called my brother in Massachusetts, I called my housemates Jon and Nate in Los Angeles, and I was texting with my oldest friend Matt. All Patriots fans, all in different unique states of disbelief and awe. In the perfect words of Ivan Fears, The Patriot’s running back coach ‘It was awesome.’
I made my friend Alex take this photo. He is a Dolphins fan. We haven’t spoken since.
It’s that moment you chase as a football fan. When your team wins the Superbowl. It happens every year for a different team and as a Patriots fan it has happened for me more times than most. Now, not all seasons end as dramatically as this Superbowl. But all seasons have that singular moment that define a team. When the Atlanta Falcons won the NFC title game in overtime in 1998, that city exploded. I was 9 years old. The 1999 Los Angeles Rams were ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’. In the third game of the 2006 NFL season, the New Orleans Saints returned to the Superdome and Steve Gleason blocked a punt in the first quarter to give The Saints a “Rebirth.” I am not a Saints fan. But this is my favorite moment in football history.
They are not my team. I have never been to New Orleans. But after Hurricane Katrina, almost 20,000 people sought shelter from the storm in the “Shelter of Last Resort,” in The Superdome. In their first home game back in their stadium, Steve Gleason blocked a punt and it was returned for a touchdown. You have to watch a clip to understand it. I recommend you turn up the volume and just listen to the crowd: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIGgBhNtOP4
That’s 76,000 people screaming out in a moment of pure elation. It’s an entire city’s sports fan base sharing a singular flash of the impossible that stays with them for their entire lifetime. That’s just who was there. Because on top of the crowd there are hundreds of thousands of people who remember exactly where they were the moment that happened. They can remember the weight of the air, the people they were with, and the feeling. That perfect sports feeling of seeing something impossible. This season, some will get to feel something similar. Similar because it is something that hasn’t happened before. Because it’s live and it only happens live once. I hope it is me again because I would love for Tom Brady to set the bar so high no one can touch it in my lifetime. But, regardless of whose team wins, it’s going to happen. It happens every year. It’s why I love football.
Take the time to google Steve Gleason after this article.
This football season I’ll be covering a broad range of topics on this blog. I’m an occasionally employed actor and writer living in Los Angeles so there will be a healthy tie in to the film and television industry in my articles. I will also cover fantasy football from the perspective of someone who has been doing it for about 10 years. I’ll even dip into the ever popular ‘Daily Fantasy’ style of Draft Kings. I also hope to attend at least one NFL game this season because Los Angeles went from having no football teams to about seven hundred in one year. But more than anything else, expect me to cover football as a whole. Because even if it’s not ‘THE BEST’ sport, it’s my favorite one.
Thank you for reading my first article for the 2017 season. I hope that you continue to read and please reach out to me if you have reactions to anything I wrote. And I hope for you to get this… maybe not this year. Maybe not next year. But in your lifetime, I hope you get to experience your this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkIflqthSVw
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Charlieforray. Go Patriots. But more than that, go football.