HARRISONBURG, Va. — Before this year, the last time I watched the Super Bowl was 2004. This charcoal drawing started my streak in February 2005.
More than 100 million people — about a third of the United States’ population — watch the Super Bowl, according to Nielsen. I stopped watching basically due to a lack of interest. I never had a favorite NFL team — excluding a brief but very forced dalliance with the then-expansion Carolina Panthers in the late 1990s — and because I never had a favorite team, I never got into the NFL. But I did watch a lot of baseball, notably the Baltimore Orioles. As a result, I am numb to the 95-loss season, the optimism that should accompany first-round draft picks, and Delino DeShields batting third.
An aside: Before the Orioles, somehow, stopped being the worst franchise in baseball, I rooted for them to lose 121 games and be all-time terrible. The 1962 New York Mets are the worst team in modern baseball history. They went 40-120. Ninety-five- to 100-loss seasons are common and unremarkable. If you’re going to stink, be great at it — like the 2003 Detroit Tigers. They lost 119 games and finished 47 games out of first place in the American League’s Central Division. The ’62 Mets finished 60 1/2 games out of first in the National League. Well done.
During my life, which started in September 1984, the Orioles have never lost more than 107 games. That was 1988, when they started 0-21. I was 3 and 4 years old when this happened, so I wasn’t old enough to appreciate the schadenfreude. After that, their worst seasons were in 2001 and 2009: 98 losses. In 2010, the Orioles lost 96 games but started a heart-blasting 2-16, mostly by choking late in obviously winnable situations. So it really hurt.
But through that 14-season run of soul-rending awful from 1998 to 2011, the Orioles never got close to dropping 121 games. So even in losing, they failed to achieve.
Strangely, now that the Orioles are good, I watch them significantly less — although my interest began to shrivel years ago.
End aside: So instead of watching the Super Bowl in 2005, I did art. Now, I typically volunteer to work (make the newspaper) on Super Bowl Sunday so my co-workers (other sports writers) can watch the game. My streak ended in 2013 because I was sick and at my parents’ house, where the Super Bowl was on.