Mike Moffett

 by Mike Moffett
 Weirs Times Columnist

Sports bring people together—in many ways and in many places.
I once saw a man wearing a Red Sox shirt in remote central Afghanistan, which was cause to connect and make a new friend.
Orange County, California, is not quite as remote, but it’s still a good distance from New England. As I was in the Golden State during the recent Patriots-Broncos AFC Championship Game, I figured it might be fun to watch the Brady-Manning gunfight at a sports bar.
So I did some homework and found an Irish Pub in Tustin—Ye Auld Dubliner—as a venue to watch the big game. With so many New Englanders (like meself) being of Irish extract, it seemed a natural place to find kindred spirits—New England expatriates, if you will. And supposedly the Dubliner was a favorite of Sam “The Bam” Cunningham, a USC grad, and one of the all-time great New England running backs. Maybe the ex-Patriot would show up and hang out with us expatriates!
Having forgotten to borrow my brother’s #12 Brady shirt, I wore my green Plymouth State windbreaker—green being apropos for an Irish bar. And I made a deal with Beth, my Beloved Bronco Fan (BBF). I’d drive to the Dubliner and she’d drive back to San Clemente. I thought I’d gotten the best of that arrangement, but there was a caveat. She had to spend an hour at the “Fitness Elite for Women” health club en route. But I was assured we had plenty of time.
En route to the health club, BBF, who grew up near Denver, reminisced about the first Bronco team to go to the Super Bowl, with quarterback Craig Morton, defensive end Lyle Alzado, and the Orange Crush defense.
As the club was for women only, I cooled my heels in the lobby for an hour. Then BBF looked in from the gym said she just needed 10 minutes in the locker room and we’d be off to the game. Over twenty minutes later I was still cooling my heels, and wondering if we’d get there in time for kick-off, or even a seat. (Try not to let this destroy your faith in the punctuality of women.)
Eventually we were flying up I-5 toward Tustin. We left the highway and sped around corners—seemingly on two wheels—and through all too many traffic lights.
BBF: You ran a red light!
ME: I think it was orange.
BBF: You’ll be seeing a lot of orange when the game starts.
We got to the Dubliner a minute before kick-off. Naturally every seat was taken so we found places to stand. As the game was on every one of twenty big screens, we could see action in any direction.
Patriot fans indeed abounded. I estimated at least 200, judging by apparel. Including BBF there were approximately five Bronco fans, and one pathetic soul wearing a Browns jersey. My Plymouth State attire got some attention and I actually connected with several Plymouth alumni. Small world.
Yes, it was a great game. The last-minute Brady to Gronk touchdown pass caused paroxysms of joy for the well-lubricated Patriot faithful. Only a two-point conversion separated us from overtime and one of the great games in NFL history.
It didn’t happen. A giant whoosh of disappointment left the Dubliner. The only consolation was I didn’t have to drive home. As we walked out, I caught BBF giving a surreptitious fist bump to a dude wearing an orange Peyton Manning jersey. C’est la vie.
I suppose I’ll still watch the Super Bowl, sans Patriots. After all, it’s hard not to root for Manning, who is almost as old as I am. Maybe I’ll find something orange to wear on Sunday.
After all, orange IS an Irish color too!

Sports Quiz
A Black History Month question: Who was the first African-American to be drafted by the NBA? (Answer follows)

Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on February 4 include NFL quarterback Wade Wilson (1959) and former women’s UFC champion Ronda Rousey (1987).

Back in the eighties, Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka was asked for a medical update concerning star quarterback Jim McMahon.
“The shoulder surgery was a success. The lobotomy failed.”

Sportsquiz Answer
The first black player to be drafted by the NBA was Duquesne University’s Chuck Cooper, who was picked by the Boston Celtics in 1950.

Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management at Plymouth State University and at NHTI-Concord. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is mimoffett@comcast.net.