This Side of the Pond – Nov. 17

I should like to state for the record that I absolutely, definitely, without a single shadow of a doubt support the Denver Broncos as my football team and will continue to do so in the future no matter what temptations cross my path.

I am stating this in a public forum in the hopes it will put to rest a discussion that has been taking place for the last week. Yes, let’s call it a discussion. That sounds less terrifying than what really happened, which could best be described as, “a fight for my very life”.

It all began on Monday morning, when I arrived at work to find a sizeable poster taped to my boss’s door proclaiming his support for a team he has never been a fan of. Perhaps unwisely, I enquired as to its presence.

It transpired that a foolish bet had been made about the outcome of last Sunday’s game. As the loser, he was stuck with the poster for the rest of the week, and he wasn’t particularly happy about it.

Naturally, this led to an office-wide conversation about team loyalty. I explained that I support the Broncos because to do otherwise is more than my life is worth.

I have a mom-in-law, you see, whose love for the Denver Broncos is equaled by few others. They are her boys, her heart and soul, her passion. To disagree would be a foolish move, I felt, and might make Thanksgiving a strained affair.

However, it was pointed out to me that there’s not much fun in everyone agreeing on a side – friendly rivalry is what sport is all about. I should make up my own mind, I was told, and choose a team of my very own.

Now, I’m still about as ignorant of the rules and regulations of handegg as I was when I first landed on these shores – for some reason, I really can’t get my head around it. When faced with the prospect of spectatorship, I tend to adopt the vacant facial expression of the person who has no idea what’s going on but is happy to have been invited.

This, as you can imagine, is something of a roadblock on the journey to NFL fandom. On what basis was I going to pick a team when I don’t have a clue what all those helmeted gentlemen are trying to achieve, let alone how they’re planning to go about it? It took me several viewings just to work out that those funny colored lines that keep appearing on the field are generated by computer, they don’t move back and forth by themselves.

I had an idea: I’d look for the logo I liked best. My favorite colors are red and black, so it would also be nice if the sweatshirts came in shades I would be happy to wear.

This decision was made after I found myself not at all taken by the color combinations of any of the teams from any of the American cities I’ve ever been to. I can’t wear yellow, for a start – with my skin tone, it makes me look like I’ve recently expired.

The playing field was quickly narrowed down to Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I like a bird of prey as much as the next person, but how could I resist the call of the pirate? It was from my hometown, after all, that many of the Golden Age pirates set sail on their adventures.

I might be the descendent of a pirate, I thought to myself, so that makes me a pirate by default. When I noticed that the Buccaneers have a giant ship in their stadium, the deal was done.

That evening, I made the mistake of sharing the day’s events with my loving husband. He made a cursory attempt to convince me that choosing a team based on a really big boat is not a good idea, then quietly changed the subject.

He’d decided it was time to call in the big guns. The next morning, my cell phone buzzed and an image of a Broncos sweater appeared on the screen. Underneath, a message: “You are not allowed to be anything but a Broncos fan. Signed, Your Mom”. I quivered in my seat and, as any loyal employee would do, immediately blamed my boss.

Ten minutes later, the office door swung open. There, silhouetted in the doorway, the fierce glare of purpose on her face, was my mom-in-law.

There was no time to hide, I’d been caught. Fortunately, my quick thinking must have done the trick because my colleagues bore the brunt of the blame. They were summarily chastised for leading her poor, innocent daughter-in-law astray.

While this was going on, I looked in horror at my husband, who had apparently come with her to enjoy the fruits of his labors. I muttered “turncoat” under my breath, but he just gave me an infuriating smile and said, “Well, you declared for the enemy”.

I learned a lesson that day – and in the days that followed, as mischievous shots were aimed across the bow. In hindsight, I think we all now agree that digitally altering a photo of mom-in-law’s memorabilia shelf to make it appear she supports every other team but the Broncos may not have been the best peacekeeping maneuver.

I write this from the office basement, the only safe place left in Crook County for those of us whose loyalty is in question. It’s dark down here, and cold at night, and the flame of rebellion has been extinguished from my heart. I have learned this week that Broncos fans are not to be trifled with, because they are far more frightening than any pirate.