Junious Smith III: Super Bowl LIII - My favorite team vs my least favorite with Kinston toughness
There is no NFL team I hate more than the New England Patriots.
I know “hate” is a strong word, but it holds up in this case. Outside of the Duke Blue Devils’ basketball team, there is no other organized squad I could care less about. From the arrogance of bandwagon fans, the smug attitudes of personnel and general disgust (among other points which would turn this column into a novel), it makes New England a tough team to root for.
It doesn’t help on Sunday, the Patriots play my favorite team — the Los Angeles Rams — in Super Bowl LIII, 17 years after I had to watch my Rams — then based in St. Louis — lose to New England on a game-winning field goal that sparked a dynasty.
But then, I remember Derek Rivers is on the New England roster, and it’s tough to bring that same level of vitriol.
I’ve had very limited interaction with Derek — I didn’t see him play at Kinston High School, I’ve written maybe two stories at most about him post-Vikings and saw him a handful of times at games. Still, it’s always great to see or hear about someone from what has turned into my second home doing great.
Rivers has been extremely humble about everything and has a wonderful attitude. I’ve had the pleasure of covering his sisters, Lydia and Alena, and there’s nothing negative to say about anyone in the family. Also, knowing he’s come back from a torn ACL to play meaningful snaps for a Super Bowl team is nothing short of phenomenal.
During Brandon Ingram’s senior year at Kinston High, I worked with Inside Carolina Magazine and hoped he would be a Tar Heel. When he took his talents to Krzyzewskiville I was upset, but actually stopped hating Duke a little bit out of respect.
Of course it ramped up during Ingram’s matchups with UNC because of tradition, but seeing a hometown hero flourish on a national stage is always a positive.
Shoot, I didn’t like the Lakers much until Ingram joined but the dunk he had on Corey Brewer Tuesday is currently my phone’s screensaver.
Derek has already made Kinston history, becoming the third player from the city to make it to a Super Bowl. Ironically, the other two Vikings — J. Lin Dawson and Ron Wooten — made it as Patriots back in 1986 for Super Bowl XX. Lord willing, Rivers has plenty of years left in his career and I wish him all of the success in the world moving forward. Matter of fact, I hope he gets a sack or two of Jared Goff Sunday — but the Rams still get the win.
Hey, I’m wishing him the best but it’s still New England. The Jeff Fisher era still stings — let me enjoy this Super Bowl.