After I finished high school I started looking for full-time work in any field really, because I had no idea what I wanted to do. That summer I interviewed for a position as a driver, for a refrigeration company if I remember correctly.
I saddled up to a countertop in their warehouse with the manager who threw a few questions my way. In what seemed like the most important question of the interview, he asked me who my football team was.
“Eh, I don’t really watch football,” I replied timidly.
“Don’t watch football?! Well, that’s almost downright un-American,” he said, turning to the other employees for a few chuckles.
I don’t want to say that’s why I didn’t get that job. But, I’m pretty sure that’s why I didn’t get that job.
I faced the same sort of disappointment when my buddies in the military found out that I was never into team sports. I told them I never got into baseball, basketball, or football much. I rode BMX and jumped stairsets with my friends instead. That was just way more fun to me.
I didn’t look up to John Elway, rather it was Ryan Nyquist, Taj Mihelich, Mat Hoffman and the like.
“Shit, Miller. You better ride like Dave Mirra then,” said one of the Marines next to me giving me grief as we recapped the game, an informal PT session, before returning to work. I might have had possession of the ball for a few seconds, if any. Do you throw like Tom Brady? I thought. Sure as hell didn’t look like it.
When I came back to Colorado, I feigned interest in the Broncos for a few years, mostly because of a girlfriend who was into football. Weekends consisted of visiting her family on Saturdays to watch college football. We drank a lot and ate shitty food. Trying to find my own identity as a fan, I latched on to the Broncos when Tebow was leading Denver to the playoffs for the first time in a while.
Then came the Manning era, and I’ll admit, I have no regrets watching the Broncos then. I found Tebow and Manning both to be highly likable athletes and role models and it was an exciting time for the city. So, on Sundays, the day after watching college ball, we’d find a bar and watch the Broncos. Maybe I snuck in a quick workout at the gym before drinking more and eating more garbage.
But it was right around the Manning era when my friend introduced me to mountain biking, in late 2012. Mountain biking encapsulated something I had athletic experience in – riding bikes, and it added a heavy dose of adventure and adrenaline – something else I’ve always sought.
As an individual sport that you can do with others, there was no sharing or vying for one bike. Sure, there are star players, but you don’t have to sit on the side of the trail and watch them ride. Anyone can participate at all times, granted you can afford a bike and have access to trails.
That girlfriend eventually faded from my life and mountain biking took her place. The intrinsic enjoyment of fitness, adventure, the technical skills, and feeling like I actually belonged in a community butted out the externally motivated enjoyment of watching other people play sports on television.
The tribalistic nature of attaching yourself to a team which represents you or your city has always been weird to me, though I do understand it to an extent. I suppose community for some is a day with family cheering on a team. Football will always be bigger than mountain biking, or skiing, or adventure sports, likely because of the team dynamics and the money it attracts.
If NICA had been as big as it is now back when I was in school, I probably would have felt less embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t “an athlete” in my youth and that’s what makes the program so great in its current state. It’s another avenue for kids to pursue an athletic venture outside of traditional team sports. Mountain biking teaches resilience and kinesthetic intelligence, but on your own terms, more or less.
I haven’t watched A football game in probably two or three years now. I don’t hate football, but my weekends are spent outside as much as possible, and my current life-partner has the same values. Every Super Bowl, the country slows down for a few hours on a Sunday in winter. There’s less traffic on the road and the trails.
Usually, the snow is good enough to get some turns in, but here in Colorado, there hasn’t been much snow lately. So instead, it’s shaping up to be another good weekend to ride bikes, get some sun, and burn calories.
And since I’ll be getting some miles in, I might actually feel like I deserve a beer or two and some junk food after.