Thursday, January 14, 2010

How Kurt Warner Saved My NFL Fandom

I will always have a soft spot for Kurt Warner, because he basically resurrected my NFL fandom.

Backstory: I grew up in the 1980s in suburban D.C. as a die-hard Bears fan. When I got to Chicago for college, I developed a contact allergy to my Bears fandom -- and lost interest in the NFL, more generally.

Fast-forward to 1997: Back East after my first tour at (then in Seattle), I leveraged's relationship producing to get a job at the NFL.

Without getting into any details, working at the NFL eroded any nominal lingering interest I had in the NFL.

I left the NFL in the spring of 1998 for -- and, yes, I was an editor of Peter King's MMQB *and* of Dr. Z, who once bawled me out something fierce. I still had no interest in the NFL.

Then, in the fall of 1999, something happened to rekindle my interest in the league -- if not a specific team: Kurt Warner.

The grocery bagger from Arena League who, by virtue of a freak accident to starter Trent Green, became the Rams' QB. And this QB from Nowhere absolutely lit up the league.

Warner led the Rams to one of the great turnarounds in NFL history: 4-12 in '98 to Super Bowl champs in '99. What a story.

And I was captivated. Not by the team, per se, but more viscerally by the unpredictability. The NFL was interesting for me again.

If this no-name QB could step in and start destroying the league, turning around a franchise in the process, anything could happen. I wanted to start following the league again.

I'm not sure my NFL fandom has ever been that piqued, but I remember it so vividly, always hoping that I might be that surprised and entertained again someday.

(As it turns out, I was unable to regain my die-hard Bears fan-ness -- to my regret -- and I ultimately tried to be a Jaguars fan, which has not really worked. Now, I'm reduced to something I've been foreshadowing for four years: That I'll probably root for whatever team drafts Tim Tebow. I should say that in recent years, I have become a die-hard fantasy football GM, and my fantasy team gives me enough satisfaction I don't feel the need to have a "real" team.)

So anyway: I have a soft spot for Warner.

I don't just think that he is a Hall of Famer. Between his backstory and his subsequent performance, I think he is the single most interesting player story in the history of the league.

And it all started 10 years ago, when this QB none of us had ever heard of destroyed the league and restored my NFL fandom.

-- D.S.

BTW: This post was in part inspired by this great post about Warner by Leitch over at Deadspin. Leitch, to his credit, is a die-hard Cardinals fan, going back to the St. Louis days, following the franchise to Arizona, rather than re-orienting around the Rams.

1 comment:

Robyn said...

I have always been a Kurt Warner fan too. I have been thinking about Leitch's post since yesterday, and in an odd way his Cardinal fandom and your post kind of both tie in to my own NFL experience. As a lifelong Browns fan with all the ups and downs that have gone with that, my favorite years as an NFL fan were the years that the Browns didn't exist anymore. All of a sudden, I could cheer for whoever I wanted, based on whatever criteria felt important to me at the moment - the standings, personnel, personalities, rivalries, regional likes and dislikes, whatever.

I have been wondering lately if we Browns fans would have followed our team to Baltimore. Would we feel like we finally got our Super Bowl if it had been won by the Baltimore Browns? Instead we now have this team that seems like fake Browns. Pet Semetary Browns. Drew Magary had a great post about this in his '09 NFL Preview series, "Why Your Team Sucks."

So, I still kind of feel like I don't really have a team, which is OK, because there is a lot of freedom in that. I don't give a sh** who drafts Tim Tebow, but I hope Kurt Warner wins another Super Bowl this year!