For once, I’m dreading the NFL season

We all have different sets of friends, because we go through different phases in life.

With regards to professional football, I have two phases. Two sets of friends align themselves rather neatly with those phases.

There are the people who have known me for much of my adulthood, as a fan of the Oakland Raiders.

Then there are the people who knew me growing up, when I loved the Los Angeles Rams.

If you are a male sports fan, you’re going to see where this gets awkward really soon.

The Rams were the first professional sports team in Los Angeles, arriving from Cleveland in 1946, predating the Lakers and Dodgers by quite a few years. They spent almost 50 years in SoCal, establishing an identity of rugged line play and those super-cool ram horns on the helmets, the first ever design on NFL headgear.

They were often threats to get to the Super Bowl, but never won one. Didn’t matter. I still think Eric Dickerson might be the greatest running back who ever lived. I still think Jack Youngblood playing in a Super Bowl with a broken leg is one of the most macho things I’ve ever seen. And this is one damn cool way to finish an NFL playoff game.

Only they left for St. Louis in 1994. I was going to tell you why they left, but then I looked at what I was writing and this post was turning into a treatise on why I’m happy owner Georgia Frontiere is dead. I erased all of that. Perhaps another rant…

Anyway, considering how American men love football, I was an oddball in that I had no favorite football team for years. There was no way in hell I would ever root for the St. Louis Rams. One of the darker days of my life was when Kurt Warner led them to a Super Bowl win. I was absolutely furious.

After at least five years of vacantly staring at Animal Planet on Sundays, I started rooting for the Oakland Raiders. Why is another long story that I will skip. But I stuck by the Raiders for many lean years, including three as a season ticket holder. The Raiders current run of missing the playoffs stands at 11 seasons. When I choose a team to root for, I am nothing if not faithful.

Or am I?

Because the Rams have moved back to Los Angeles. They’ll be playing in the Coliseum in downtown until a new stadium is constructed in Inglewood. Their first game with “Los Angeles” back in the name comes Saturday.

And I’m truly torn. Not weeping into a velvet handkerchief torn, but this is more of a midlife crisis than when I noticed my hair was thinning.

It’s kind of a man law. You’re not supposed to ditch favorite teams unless the circumstances are extreme. There would be no such thing as Mets fans had the Giants and Dodgers not left New York for California. This is akin to the Dodgers rebuilding Ebbets Field and returning to Brooklyn.

I caught myself looking at Rams gear online today. That cool ram horn logo. “Welcome back” sweatshirts. Then photos of the team working out in the Coliseum, where I watched them play when I was a child.

Only now the Raiders are a pretty damn good football team and I stuck with them through thick and thin. And there was more than a decade of thin.

There is no simple answer. The Raiders have been like a bitter second wife who realized you might leave and took up a Zumba class to avoid a divorce. The Rams are like a high school sweetheart you just happened to run into a month after she had breast augmentation.

I’d say I’d pray over it, but even Pope Francis can’t excuse this.

I have maybe a month before the regular season kicks off to figure it out.

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