I make no bones nor apologies for loving Joe Burrow–or as I call him to myself, Joey B (which is also his twitter name and how he signs his name). I have said it before–and will say it again–I really do not pay much attention to the NFL outside of the Saints. I watch the Saints games and that’s really always been about it for me (I might watch the Super Bowl if nothing else is on, but it’s usually just background noise while I read–sometime it’s a good game and I’ll watch, but I generally don’t care very much who wins or loses if the Saints aren’t involved). It’s hard for me to root against teams that have players who played for LSU, for example, but at the same time they are on SO many teams I can’t keep track of them and I certainly am not going to invest in watching all those games. But it’s nice to see players from LSU–like Tyrann Mathieu, Leonard Fournette, Odell Beckham Jr, et. al–doing well in the NFL; I am always pleased to see their names in the sports news.
But…that 2019 LSU team was so damned special, I find myself looking for highlights of players who were on that team alot, and being really happy for them as they make names for themselves in the pros.
And then, of course, there’s my hero, Joe Burrow.
It’s probably untoward for a sixty year old gay man to worship an athlete the way I love this kid (in fairness, I felt that way about Drew Brees for a very long time, and I will always be grateful to Brees for what he did, not only for the Saints but for post-Katrina New Orleans), but I do. I really like this kid a lot, and not just because he led the Tigers to only their second-ever undefeated season and fourth national title, either. He seems like a genuinely good guy–or he is one hell of an actor. Even at LSU, as he was breaking national records, making headlines and the cover of Sports Illustrated, he never made anything about himself: it was always about the team, and he immediately, inevitably, always gave credit to his offensive line first. Joey B became a beloved icon in Louisiana in just two seasons with our Fighting Tigers of LSU–and the entire state cheered when Joey B and the Bengals won the AFC championship and made it to the Super Bowl in only his second year with the team.
Kind of….like how he won everything in his second year with LSU.
So, now I kind of follow the Cincinnati Bengals because I love this player so much and want to see him continue to succeed. I do wonder about this attachment from time to time; just as I wonder about the whole concept of fandom in general–like when I think about how amazing an experience it is being in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night for a big game. Joe Burrow’s story is everything you’d want in a sports story–the kid no one really recruited much and didn’t get many offers; who didn’t succeed at his first, chosen university so he graduated early and went elsewhere and in two years had the greatest season ever by a college quarterback, including a national championship and the Heisman Trophy and drafted Number One for the NFL by a team that hadn’t won in decades and had slipped to the level of the pre-Drew Brees Saints; and then got injured his first season only to come roaring back in his second to take them to the Super Bowl. This kid is special, he’s funny and quirky and introspective and not really into the whole “star” thing (although I do love the gold chain with “JB9” he has taken to wearing to press conferences, and when asked if it was real, replied, “I make too much money for it to be fake.”). I will forever be grateful that I got the opportunity to see him play in person several times, and the 2019 LSU-Florida game is one of the most fun experiences I have ever had watching a college football game live.
The Bengals and Joey B may not win the Super Bowl tonight–but one thing I do know from watching him play for four years is that Bengal fans need not fear should the Rams win tonight. I will promise you–Joey Burrow may lose his first Super Bowl, but he will not lose his second.
And my money would be on a win next year if they lose tonight.
He’s that kind of player.