By the time this column goes to print, that annual festival of the pigskin known as the Super Bowl will have concluded. Every year, millions of us gather in living rooms across the nation to watch wildly over-priced commercials and consume the equivalent of Uzbekistan’s GDP in party food. Oh, yeah. And to watch a little football.
I’ve never understood the game. Basketball makes sense to me. I get it. But not football. This is heresy, I know, especially living in Notre Dame country where Rudy once played and every boy dreams of winning one for the Gipper.
From what I can see, a bunch of very big men get dressed up in very big suits and then proceed to waddle, storm, and thunder up and down a very big field in pursuit of a leather ball. Clearly, none of the players learned about sharing in kindergarten because they pretty much spend the entire game trying to take it away from each other.
I’ve seen grown men revert to kicking, hitting, and pushing each other down in their efforts to get that ball. This kind of behavior at recess would have earned us a trip to the office with a phone call to our parents followed by a paddling when we got home.
Apparently, football is a mixture of several games, including keep away, tag, and kick the can. Again, it all centers around that ball. They line up, mutter some secret code words, and then one guy fires it over everyone’s heads while the rest of the pack jumps up and down, trying to catch it. That’s the keep away part.
If someone called a receiver catches it, they switch right over and start playing tag. The whole herd lights out after this unlucky fellow and chases him down like lions after an antelope. If they manage to tag the “it” guy, they move on to the next game and start kicking his can. They do this over and over and over until I’m nearly comatose in the cheese dip.
Believe it or not, these grown men even play Twister out there. Their motto seems to be, “The more, the merrier,” because when two of them start playing it, everybody else sees this as an invitation to hop right in and play it, too. Pretty soon, there’s a writhing mass of twisted-up arms and legs that takes the two guys in the zebra shirts a good 15 minutes to untangle. This is a real crowd pleaser. Everyone in the stands goes nuts with half of them whooping like Indians and waving their foam fingers in the air while the other half boos and hisses and throws bottles onto the field.
And speaking of the guys in the striped shirts, I still haven’t figured out what they’re doing out there. They run around an awful lot. Maybe they’re trying to play tag with those big guys. They also keep dropping yellow hankies like so much used Kleenex. Then one of them stands in the middle and does some sign language that could mean anything from “the restrooms are that way” to “get me some beer and peanuts down here and quick!” I’m never sure.
When one side finally carries the ball over the white line, the crowd goes nuts again with some serious yodeling and foam finger waving while certain sections bust out with “the wave.” Predictably, the other team boos loudly again, throwing bottles and insults onto the turf and making ugly faces.
At the end of the game, they present awards to the winners, which, in my opinion, never go to the right people. Why should thugs be rewarded for tackling (assaulting), hitting (battery), intercepting (stealing), and outright conspiracy, all actions which would be felonies off the gridiron? The real heroes here are their mothers.
It goes completely against the laws of nature for a mother to sit and watch someone else attempt to tackle, pin, outrun, or otherwise put a hurt on her son in any way. Every instinct tells her to trip the other kid or to wade in swinging her purse. It takes a great deal of self-restraint to keep from clunking an opponent with your red purse. I know what I’m talking about.
Sadly, we all know that the shiny rings won’t go to the people who really deserve them, so I have a different ending to this annual contest. I’m no dummy. I know what those x’s and o’s mean that the coaches are always scribbling on their papers. Just for once, why don’t those lugs finish things up by hugging and kissing each other, apologizing for their loutish behavior and then let the other side have a turn at wearing their rings. Now that would be a clear testament of civility and Christian virtue to all our children who are watching. If they could be the “big men” for once and set this example, I’d say throw the confetti, commissioner. Throw the confetti.