Bowled Over

Each year, I watch just one football game.

“You want to watch the what?!?”

My wife’s reaction to my Super Bowl plans was no surprise. In the nine years since we started dating, I haven’t spent a single Sunday afternoon or Monday night watching professional athletes pound each other over an oblong hunk of rubber and leather. The games rarely hold my interest for more than 10 minutes at a stretch; I don’t even have a favorite team.

Plus, my wife’s revulsion for football tends to compound my lack of interest. Her distaste for the sport rivals most people’s feelings about intestinal exams.

Still, I try to watch the Super Bowl every year. It’s always seemed like a sort of vague cultural obligation — that I needed to watch so that I’d understand the next day’s water-cooler conversation about Prince‘s nipple popping out. Beyond that, it was a once-a-year chance to appreciate the sport’s gravity-defying throws and kicks, its athletes’ gazelle-like runs and leaps. And, of course, to laugh at the clever folks trying to make me buy beer and soda and wireless Internet service.

But while my wife shook her head and I made plans to eat in front of the TV, I realized there was something more to my once-a-year date with the NFL. I remembered lying on my parents’ bed in my pajamas, staying up late and peering through the static on an ancient black-and-white television set to see a halftime show. I thought of my first Super Bowl party at age seven, watching the Redskins and Broncos on a new-fangled projection TV and imagining who would win in a real-life struggle between an American Indian and a wild horse. I remembered the year I set up a card table in front of the family TV and built a model train station while my mom made pizza.

I realized I only watch one football game a year because my parents always watched just one football game a year. Even today, my dad couldn’t explain the difference between a “hurry-up offense” and “smash mouth football” — and frankly, neither could I. Because it’s not about the football, it’s about the tradition.

So I my wife and I both brought our dinners into the family room; she wheeled in our toddler’s high chair, and I strapped him in. We spent the night cheering and laughing. And I can already tell you what we’ll be doing on the first Sunday in February next year.

Article © 2007 by Michael Duck