Daniel and I went out for a snack run right before the big game Sunday. We stopped at the corner gas station to get Diet Pepsi on draft. Daniel went with a bottle – a big bottle – of Sunkist orange. He wanted some Spree as his go-to food. I grabbed some fresh popcorn from the small carnival popper they have by the rotating hot dogs. Daniel reminded me to get some for Meka as well, just in case she wanted to forego her college education for a few hours and watch the game with us. We had everything ready to go by kickoff. The end tables were loaded down. New batteries were in the remote control. We had the ottoman shared between us and the green fleece ready to cover us in case it got cold. Really, the only thing we lacked was a team to root for.
I sort of liked the Pittsburgh Steelers. I had a friend from Pennsylvania when I was a kid and he followed the Steelers. I followed them too; I didn’t have to worry about the Bears in the post season back then. And Pittsburgh was in the AFC; they rarely played the Bears, so my loyalties weren’t divided. On the other hand, there were the Cardinals. They had been a Chicago team at one time. And while they had moved from city to city, they still retained that aura of futility that only Chicago sports fans can appreciate (there is a reason Cubs spring training is in Arizona). Pittsburgh had five Lombardi trophies. The Cardinals hadn’t won – well, anything since the Truman Administration.
It turned out to be quite a good game. I cheered the defensive stands Arizona made time and time again. That interception at the end of the first half was amazing. Akane turned around in her food dish and beeped loudly at the television. Daniel dragged Meka down as the Cardinals took their first lead late in the fourth quarter.
“The game ended 20 minutes ago,” she said to me, quietly. “I know how it ends.” We had paused the game to pick up Chinese food at halftime and – unlike every other show we record – we didn’t skip through the commercials when we got back. To her credit, Meka remained mum as the Steelers marched down the field in the final minute. Daniel was on the edge of his seat as it looked like Arizona might hold them off one more time. But – of course – they didn’t. We shut off the television and Daniel got ready for bed. He was blinking hard; his attempt to hold back tears.
“You wanted the Cardinals to win?” I asked, “Why did you pick them?”
“They never win,” he replied. “So, I wanted them to win this time.”
“That’s called ‘being an underdog’,” I said as I tucked him in. “Usually underdogs lose, or they wouldn’t be the underdog.”
“But I like underdogs!” said Daniel.
I smiled, “So do I.”