New season starts with hope and optimism for all

Have you ever been isolated with an over-anxious child?

You get exhausted trying to keep up with the frenetic flow of movement. The constant chattering. An excitement level inside that kid that is palpable, like there is an inner demon trying desperately to get out of its host body and roam free and wild.

Yeah, that’s how our master of all things technological, Shaun Lambert, has been the past few weeks.

You see, Shaun is a fan of the Seattle Seahawks. No, no, no. Not one of those fans we’ve all seen over the years — the ones who jump from team bandwagon to team bandwagon, depending on which team looks most dominant in a given season (or, from game to game, in some instances). Shaun grew up in Alaska, so the team closest to him was Seattle. He’s been a fan for life, and if you have any knowledge of Seattle’s history over the years, that constituted a lot of bumps, bruises and heckling from a certain bald, albeit handsome, newspaper editor.

We watched last year’s Super Bowl together at my house, and though he was a bit of a nervous wreck throughout the day leading up to kickoff, he was all smiles for the vast majority of Seattle’s 43-8 dismantling of Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos. The friend in me felt good for Shaun, watching as his football dreams became a reality. The guy in me had a different outward response.

“Talk to me when the Seahawks have won two,” I said, pointing out that my favorite team, the Baltimore Ravens, have done just that.

“Right now, I’m happy with one,” he answered with a huge smile on his face.

But, of course, while Shaun might be happy with the one, he is certainly not content. He has been anticipating this new season since the final seconds ticked off the clock in last year’s Super Bowl, and is carrying himself with a confidence level I haven’t seen from him since he last bored me to tears with a story about his legendary prowess playing World of Warcraft.

Long story short, Shaun is positively convinced his Seahawks are destined to win another Super Bowl this year, and I am positively convinced I can ridicule him and his team until... well, I don’t want to put a finish line to this exercise. I just want to ridicule him and his team as long as I can.

But that’s one of the things that makes professional football so addictive to men.

Yes, wrapping your metaphorical heart around a team can make you feel invested in it, and you follow every transaction and move they make, hoping against hope that this will be the decision that catapaults your team to “the promised land.” And there’s no doubt that the strategies in the game keep your attention if you’re a big fan.

But there’s possibly no better fun for a fan of the NFL than to ridicule your friends if their teams are struggling.

For example, I have one friend (who shall remain anonymous, but his name rhymes with “Rave Dussell”) who is a huge fan of the Atlanta Falcons. He follows every move they make, watches tons of college football so he can figure out which players would fit best with his team in the future and enters contests online to win Falcons memorabilia every chance he gets.

In short, he is what every NFL franchise hopes their fans to be across the board — loyal, committed and dedicated.

The two of us have a natural rivalry since Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco both came into the league the same year, and each have had their share of successes. Those two quarterbacks will likely be compared to each other long after their playing careers have ended, and I suspect that old Rave Dussell and I will be arguing about their playing careers for many years after that.

And though last year’s Ravens finished a disappointing 8-8 for the year, I did find comfort that the Falcons finished 4-12, allowing me the opportunity to rip apart Rave’s team every chance I had.

And, oh, I ripped.

So, with a new season comes new optimism for all. Shaun is convinced Seattle will win another Super Bowl. Rave is certain that Atlanta will stand in Shaun’s way. And I am standing in the corner greedily rubbing my hands together, knowing that at least one of those two will feel pain when their team is eliminated from its championship aspirations and I will be able to pounce.

But what about my own team’s fortunes, you might ask? Aren’t I afraid of getting ridiculed if my Ravens come up short?

Not afraid at all. I was brought up by a father who loved to ridicule, and I played competitive sports for years before graduating Marine Corps boot camp from Parris Island. I have been tormented by the best, faithful readers, and have been conditioned since birth to take verbal lashings at every turn.

Come at me.

Regardless, the National Football League is now back, and the next five months will be filled with spectacular plays, bone-crushing hits and hyperbole in every barber shop across these fruited plains. Everyone starts the season 0-0 and the fans hope that if their players stay healthy, a few bounces go their way and a few young guys step up to become stars their respective teams can go all the way.

Only one team will, of course. And I’m praying it’s not the Falcons or Seahawks... and, yeah, the Steelers.