Much like last year, there's no clear-cut Super Bowl favorite in 2013. Sure, there's the normal list of teams you think will be in the playoffs, but the fact of the matter is that even the usual suspects could miss out on the playoffs altogether. It's part of the NFL's appeal, but it makes being a fan that much more difficult. I'll explain.
For Patriots fans, the ones that were fans before Tom Brady came to town, being a fan means constantly being open to ridicule. Accusations of "band wagon fans" fly around successful teams in the NFL, and frankly, those accusations are true in many cases, but not all.
For fans of teams like the Lions and the Browns, being a fan is just maddening. While teams at the top of each conference are constantly rotating in and out, the bottom dwellers often stay relatively constant. In a league with so much parity, for some reason, some teams can't get in on the fun.
So, for new NFL fans, where do you start? For many, that choice comes down to picking the local team, but what about for those fans that are stranded significant distances from any NFL team? Who, then, should they pick?
Ultimately, it usually doesn't matter.
In some ways, the casual fan of the NFL is the big winner. Games are more competitive, and unlike certain leagues (I'm looking at you NBA), we really don't know who'll finish the season on top. It's the ultimate catch-22. We never know what's coming, making us that more zealous about our teams.
Parity has made the NFL the most popular sport in the United States, but it's also made being a hard-core, live and die with my team, fan more difficult than in any other sport. The Cubs will never win the world series, and everyone knew the Heat would win the NBA finals. Seriously, we all knew (although we were almost wrong), but that's not the case in the NFL, and it's the not knowing that makes it tough.