Unfortunately, I”m writing this column without the benefit of knowing who won this year”s Super Bowl. But to me, it doesn”t really matter. I long for the days of Green Bay Packer triumphs in the big game, but those days are gone for now. Even the days of consistent playoff births are gone, so who am I to talk about winning the big one?

Paul Wong
Pray for Rain<br><br>Mike Spahn

This game, this biggest of all games in fact, has deteriorated, in my mind. More people tune in for the commercials than anything else and each year the game gets a little more boring. Aerosmith and “N Sync at half time? You”ve got to be kidding. No Bud Bowl? Please, that was the best part of the early “90s.

Sure there have been a few good matchups last year was a good game, I guess, but who really cared about the teams. The Rams and the transported Titans? Two teams in new cities with no history. I certainly had no reason to watch. And now we”ve even got the Ravens in the game. The Ravens? I mean really, a team that moved from Cleveland and then proceeded to name itself after an Edgar Allen Poe poem? That”s ridiculous. And on top of that, what about the fans? In both Cleveland and Houston, the fans must be steaming. Their team leaves, much to their dismay and then less than to years later, it”s Super Bowl time. That must be terrible. Money wins out over loyalty and the entire professional sports arena is indicted. And now those fans must not only watch a Super Bowl contender, but also replacement teams that surely stink and will continue to stink for quite some time.

Don”t get me wrong I was not always so cynical. I used to look forward to football games like they were weekly Christmas mornings. I wore my John Elway jersey in the face of criticism each season, only to see dynasties like the “49ers and the Cowboys rip my heart out. I prayed for Jim Kelly to get even one ring, only to see wide-right kill my hopes.

But in the end, I stayed the course and eventually got what I wanted the Packers, my team, won the big one. And I was in high school trying to win the big one myself. For me the big one was just that one. Any one.

See, my school didn”t have the best team.

Check that we stunk. For years. Seven years, to be exact.

Entering my senior year, we hadn”t won a game in 63 tries. That”s a drought if I”ve ever heard of one. But, just as I would have hoped, we turned the streak around. Headlines in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the day after our first game of my senior season read, “The streak is over.” We shut out an inferior squad 14-0 one August night and like that, we were heroes. It was as if we”d won the Super Bowl, as fans stormed the field and TV cameras searched for the captains and our coach. And all this for a seemingly insignificant feat we won one game.

We didn”t have huge goals, huge TV contracts or even huge stakes in the game. We just loved to play and our fans turned out to see us play. Win or lose and it was usually lose we had an enthusiastic crowd of supporters willing to go to the mat for us. And when we won the big one our first game in more than five years, our fans were there supporting us.

Now that”s what sports are all about. A corporatized synergy of sport and advertising will never compare to the raw, base emotion of winning a high school game that so many people care about. Even the 1997 Packers Super Bowl win cannot compare to the joy that beset the Shorewood Greyhounds and their fans that warm August night when the streak ended.

And never will the NFL be able to capture that emotion if it keeps catering to corporate sponsors and other big-money clients, rather than to the fans. I”m going to watch the Super Bowl and I”ll even enjoy it. The commercials should be funny and I guarantee I”ll be sick of Survivor promos by the end. But I”ll have a good time, I”m sure. However, never will the emotion of the Super Bowl compare to the simple joy of a Friday night under the lights, where football and sports in general is pure. The point of sports is to unite and entertain and unfortunately professional sports lost that along the way. With money guiding decision-making, we”ll never be able to truly enjoy the games as we did in high school.

Just remember, 0-63, and the fans still came. Would that happen in the NFL? Or would the team be off to Las Vegas with a name change and a new logo? It just doesn”t seem worth it.

Mike Spahn really isn”t that cynical, but if you have a good high school sports story, he”d love to hear it and maybe even write about it. His column runs every other Monday. E-mail him at mspahn@umich.edu.

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