Tonight is a big night in this house. It marks the start of the football season – or the American Football season, as it is known here in the UK. Which means that at least one of us will be up until the wee small hours watching at least part of the opening game.
My love of this game dates back to the early 1980s, when Channel 4 began showing highlights of the previous week’s games on a Sunday teatime. It wasn’t of much interest to 2/3 of the family, but Dad and I would sit and watch as much of it as we could – helped by the fact that Sunday teatimes were the only time that we were ever allowed to have the television on during meals.
The shows were initially presented by Nicky Horne (short, bearded, inevitably gnomic) and John Smith (tall, greying, strange accent born of spending too long in the US). In later series they were replaced by Gary Imlach (young, thin faced, very enthusiastic) and Mick Luckhurst (tall, dark haired, strange accent, mentioned God far too much, even for a Sunday).
I loved it. There was something about the game, with it’s mixture of tactics and brutality, which appealed to me. Later, I came to understand the level of sheer skill involved, too.
I vividly recall the first time that I watched the Superbowl, which was the same season – 1982, I would guess. I was babysitting and only saw the first half. At home, Dad stayed up and watched it all. Apparently Channel 4 had not been warned about the number of breaks in play and ran out of commercials to play during them. They didn’t make that mistake again.
Now, of course, we have saturation coverage during the season. Some weeks, there is more coverage of the game on television than any other sport. Which makes for a long time between February and September, when there are no games. Channel 4 tried to fill that gap with Aussie Rules football (which I also love) and Kabaddi (which was too close to organised British Bulldog for my liking), but neither struck me the way that the NFL did.
And tonight it all starts again. For the 29th season in succession, Bring. It. On.