I skated on some very thin ice two Sundays ago.
And before you settle in with a cup of coffee, ready to chuckle at the idea of a 6-foot-2, 210-pound Australian nervously shuffling onto a dicey frozen pond, hear me out. There’s no personal injury recounts in this column (thankfully).
Two Sundays ago I did something probably even more hazardous to my health: I wore a Denver Broncos T-shirt to a bar on AFC Championship game day.
If you haven’t already thrown your paper down in exasperation, or slammed the lid of your laptop closed, thanks for letting me explain.
While I was job hunting, and before the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel came calling, I was living in Denver during the NFL regular season.
The friends I was staying with were fervent Bronco fans and it was hard to not get caught up in the Peyton Manning Show.
So when the football gods decided that the Broncos would face New England for a spot in the Super Bowl, I knew I was in for a tough Sunday afternoon.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I was a sports writer in Australia for four years before I moved here, so I was well aware of the narratives coming into the AFC game.
On top of that, I’ve spent a lot of my vacation time since 2008 in the U.S., so I understand the sporting matchups and rivalries (as well as how fiercely loyal and patriarchal New England sports fans can be), so I knew that I’d get my fair share of ribbing. All I could hope for was that the locals would give me the benefit of the doubt and assume “he’s an Aussie — what would he know about football anyway?”
But don’t you worry, Patriots fans. I caught some flak for it.
Everyone at the bar, which shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, sent varying degrees of cheers, jeers and eye rolls at me across the course of three hours.
One fellow patron changed seats when he realized there was an orange-maned horse head on the T-shirt under my zip-up sweater. Another jokingly invited me to take a trip to the parking lot with him after the final whistle, and I don’t think it was to take a look at his automobile.
My one ally, thankfully, was the bartender, who also had some Denver apparel to show off. If his allegiance had been the other way, I might have been hungry and thirsty all evening.
Meanwhile, the reception wasn’t much less frosty on Twitter. My boss referenced “The Godfather” and told me I “broke his heart,” whilst another colleague intimated I should “go back to (Australia).”
It made me think for the briefest of seconds that perhaps I should’ve kept my fandom under my hat … at least until my probationary period is over.
Since I’m in good health enough to write this column, it’s safe for you to assume I made it out of the bar in one piece, even though Denver got past the Patriots and through to the big dance.
But the thing I think that was more pleasing to me than the result was the open sense of camaraderie that I felt in a room full of relative strangers.
Watching sports at a bar at home definitely generates an exciting crowd atmosphere, but it went a step further than that for me, as an outsider rooting for the wrong team, to be allowed to share in the ups and downs, the banter and the brotherhood (albeit temporary) of a bunch of die-hard fans willing the home team on.
Either that, or they just thought, “He’s an Aussie — what would he know about football anyway?”
Probably the latter.
Adrian Crawford is a Web editor at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email him at [email protected]. Maine Walkabout is published the first and third Sundays of each month. More of his adventures in Vacationland can be found at www.crawfinusa.com.