Sunday, February 7, 2010

Who’s playing again?

From all appearances, it’s a Super Bowl party we’re having. We’ve got the chicken wings, pigs in blankets, assorted chips and dips, and the drinks. Soda and beer, too. We sit in front of the TV and watch the game, this time the Indianapolis Colts versus the New Orleans Saints.

What lies beneath the surface of our annual fête is that it’s a complete fabrication. The closest to a football fan in this house is my teenaged son. Andrew somehow knows the basics of football and can explain them. He seems to understand so much, in fact, that you might never know the Super Bowl is the only football game he watches all year. Elena, my wife and best friend, prepared the wings and pigs. (I’m no slouch—I shopped.) She’ll even watch the game. But in her heart, she’d rather it were baseball.

My relationship with football is far more complicated. While I suppose it’s fashionable to blame one’s parents for every character flaw that surfaces, I can’t blame my father for not especially caring about sports. At age 12, he watched his own father take off—to land elsewhere with a new family. Not only did he have little example to follow, but my father also had six kids over 12 years and for years worked two jobs. The big football fan of the house? My mom. That would have to do.

So sometime in the year after the Jets won Super Bowl III, I decided that as a boy I was supposed to like football. Stephen, one of two older brothers, taught me how to throw a football properly. When Christmas came around, however, I suppose I went too far. In retrospect, I have to admit I probably should not have asked for a football uniform.

My mom, bless her heart, had to know what would happen if she said yes to this, one of several preposterous and expensive items of the type that invariably populated my Christmas list. My father had to know, if he had time to offer any input at all. But somehow, on Christmas morning, I unwrapped a football uniform. The helmet, shoulder pads, a jersey of a blue resembling the blue of the Indianapolis Colts, white pants and knee pads—it was all there. On the first warmish day of late Winter, I suited up, donned my helmet…and realized what was wrong.

Among a gang of kids striking up a game, there’s not a uniform in sight. Never will be. The word "dork" had perhaps not yet been coined. Still, at age ten I understood what one was. Ultimately, I recall walking out to the neighborhood holding the helmet and a football. I might even have rolled up the jersey and carried it under my arm. (You never know!) After a while of asking first one kid, then another, about throwing around the football and getting shrugs in return, I gave up and went home. The uniform ended up in the closet, where it stayed. And during freshman year of high school, this scrawny kid finally had his epiphany: A boy didn’t have to like football.

I admit I’ve advanced since then. As each Super Bowl draws nigh, I know who’ll be playing whom. I need less explanation of the basics from Andrew than I needed the year before. I might even know a few names of players, though even bushmen of the Kalahari have probably heard the name Peyton Manning. And for the second straight year (which makes it annual), we have the trappings of a Super Bowl. I’ll enjoy the single bottle I’d started chilling before the game.

But in my heart? I’m with Elena: It’s just not baseball.

1 comment :

  1. but it s a beautiful moment -- the super bowl -- it means one of america s sports comes to a seasonal end FINALLY -- and the other american sport THE SPORT baseball is about to begin -- btw who won?