This season, it has been my predicament that I have had to fly on Sundays since September. Hence, I have had to catch what parts of NFL games I could in some God-forsaken airport or another.
I don't drink alcohol. But that is a whole other story. In airports though, finding a place to catch a part of a game requires sidling up to a bar (in places with names such as "Torchy's" or "Connections" or "Flight Relay"). People seem to like to get their hammer on when flying, and lips get a bit looser, and conversation comes a lot easier than if you were in some other non-alcoholic situation. That's cool with me. … I like to talk to my fellows and see what makes them tick.
These bars in airports are naturally places for fans of myriad different teams to gather. You know, we are all from someplace with our team, in the middle of either going home, or going farther away from our cities and our teams.
There never seems to be animosity between fans here either. Everyone is polite, for whatever social-phenomena reason that is. Hell, I've seen New York Jets and New England Patriots fans hanging and watching a game together (note to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and marketing whizzes for the other 31 teams: A lot more women are suddenly in these bars these days, watching the Patriots and Tom Brady. Women who don't seem to be from anywhere near Boston or the great Northeast at all).
I caught most of the morning games at home before I left for the airport. I have the DirecTV package, and saw that great drive by the New York Giants at the end of the second quarter that seemed to present the Miami Dolphins with enough discouragement to take the wind out of them. I saw the almighty New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees fall to the lowly St. Louis Rams.
I was still at home when the afternoon games started. For the first time in my life, I wasn't really even interested enough to go to the Seahawks game first (something I have always done). Again, that is a subject for another column, some other day. No, I wanted to see what the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers were doing. Heck, I was more interested in the San Francisco 49ers-Cleveland Browns game!
I got to LAX, checked in, went through security, and made my way directly to "Red-Eyes" (or whatever the name of the bar is in the International Terminal). There they were: my people. Hammered. Partying. Wearing different team jerseys and all. There were ladies there for Tom Brady, sitting with those two dudes wearing Steelers jerseys (there are always "those two dudes wearing Steelers jerseys"). There was no bitter discussion. Rather, it was all polite, and that sort of "Hey, that was a really nice play by your team" sort of banter.
It's amazing to watch people's behavior when that "mob rule" mentality gets taken out of the equation. Does that make sense? I mean, those two thugs who beat up the San Francisco Giants fan on Opening Day in the Dodger Stadium parking lot would probably be meek and quiet at an airport bar.
Mob rule dictates that people in a group will do and act on things (usually more dire things) differently than they'd ever do on their own. Travelers go to airports with far-off destinations in mind to connect with other places and people, so fortunately they act more civil with one another. But some sports fans make a stadium their destination for the purpose of causing havoc and increasing divisiveness with their fellow fans who happen to cheer for a different team.
I found myself -- because Ben Roethlisberger was my starting fantasy football quarterback last week -- rooting for the Steelers. Yes, I said it, the hated Steelers. … What else have I got? The damn Seattle Seahawks. Not this season.
Tally ho. I'm off to England. Next week? I'll be writing about the drama and intrigue of the Irish Curling League. My grandfather's hometown team, Cork, will be "throwing brooms" with Limerick.
I also would be remiss not to congratulate the St. Louis Cardinals for showing the rest of us what guts and perseverance look like. Game 6 and 7 of their World Series triumph over the Texas Rangers were a clinic in man-dom.
Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and has his autobiography out now, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com. To send him a note, click here and fill out the form.