There is a certain sequence of rituals that takes place when a man watches football with his friends. These include, but are not limited to, guzzling beer, belching stridently, scratching personal areas, and most importantly, discussing the intricacies of the contest at hand and the game of football in general. Like most rituals, this is sacred, and when one of these necessary occasions becomes excluded, football-watching males become irritable, start frothing out at the mouth, and attack small island villages, burning down huts and seizing the area’s finest women and cheeses.
I am a man, and these rituals are part of what makes football so enjoyable for me. For example, last year my weekly football haven was in the suite of a few friends of mine who had set up a CNN-style news center with about 4 different televisions, each playing a different game of football (actually, one TV was usually reserved for the X-box. A lot of my fellow football-watchers were Halo freaks). We used small refrigerators filled with Sam Adams and Bud Light as end tables, and there was even a dartboard set up across the room to entertain us during commercials. There was never a shortage alcohol, football, or crude language. It was a beautiful thing.
I have since graduated from college, and all of my gridiron-loving amigos have moved on as well, migrating as far away as South Carolina (one friend of mine even quit his job and has discussed the possibility of moving to New Zealand. Really). So, I have been left without my revered tradition, the effects of which were especially painful come Super Bowl weekend. I had no men with which to share the game, so I started trying to accept the fact that I would be watching the greatest event in sports by myself.
My girlfriend (bless her heart) picked up on my slightly dejected demeanor and offered me her own company on Super Bowl Sunday. I had never spent a Super Bowl with a woman, so I was a bit skeptical, but with none of the usual suspects available, and such a sweet offer on the table, I happily accepted. I was just grateful to have company for the big game, but I could do nothing but guess as to how the day would play out…
Sometime during the pre-game show, Amy’s roommate called while she and I were watching the starting lineups, and since the ‘mate was bummed out with some man problems, she invited her over so that Amy could keep her company. Now, not only was I watching the Super Bowl with a GIRL, but I was also going to be outnumbered 2-to-1! Hiking up my pants and slapping my baseball cap on backwards, I prepared myself for the overwhelming quantity of estrogen that was about to invade my apartment. This was going to be interesting.
Amber (the roommate) arrived as the game began, and we of course had to spend a little bit of time discussing the extent to which her current man of choice was unfavorable. Women are an extremely supportive species; they would assassinate the prime ministers of most eastern countries if they slept with The Best Friend and never called her back. This particular instance of male heartlessness is a vague spot in my memory, mostly because I was hoping for the conversation to end from the very millisecond it began.
The thing about women is (and I remember, I love them) they don’t have even a remote understanding of when something important is happening at a sporting event. This particular conversation about Amber's man troubles continued through the first few minutes of the first quarter, and I know for a fact that, at the time, neither one of them comprehended the magnanimousness of the opening minutes of this football game. See, when women root for a team, they don’t cheer and clap because the team is doing well; they cheer and clap because they think that team’s colors are pretty or the quarterback is cute. In this instance, Amy rooted for the Eagles because that is whom I wanted to win, and as my girlfriend, she felt a loyalty to my team of choice. Amber, on the other hand, was rooting for the Patriots because she thought Tom Brady was hot.
Tom Brady was actually a sympathetic subject for the girls throughout the game since the announcers made sure it was known that Brady’s 97 year-old grandmother had died earlier in the week. This constant reminder caused my lady guests to occasionally display very sad-looking faces and sprinkle “awww’s” throughout the duration of the game. As a man, my exact thoughts about Brady’s situation was, “Grandma died, and that means one of two things: 1. He’s got extra motivation to win one for Grammie, or 2. He’s going to be so upset about her dying that he’ll play horribly, giving the Eagles a better chance for victory.” Let’s compare. I was thinking THAT, and the girls were thinking, “that’s so sad.” I just wanted to make sure we all saw the difference there.
To the girls’ credit, they really wanted to understand the game, so they asked a lot of questions. As a teacher, I had no choice but to instinctually instruct them on the basic rules of the game. To explain the concept of “downs” as the way to move the ball down the field, I used the word “try” instead of “down.” They got the point, but unfortunately called every down a “try” for the rest of the contest. There was also an instance where one of the girls asked me what a running back was. I answered, “he’s the guy that runs the ball.” Naturally, they responded, “don’t they ALL run with the ball?” So, I had to explain to them difference between a running back and a wide receiver. For the rest of the day, we had “3rd try and 6 yards left,” “running people,” and “catching people.” To their credit, they knew what a quarterback was, and they immediately picked up on the concept of the blitz. Still, we developed a whole new unisex football jargon in about a half hour that will probably be used by these two girls from now until the Cubs win a pennant. They were good sports about it. You gotta love ‘em.
All-in-all, the night went pretty smoothly. There was a brief confrontation at the end of halftime when the girls wanted to watch the end of America’s Funniest Home Videos, and I wanted to watch the start of the 3rd quarter, but the pigskin prevailed. Other than that, Amy and The Ber were quite pleasant company, and it really wasn’t too bad of a Super Bowl. Granted, there was no beer, flatulence, or scratching, but there was definitely football, food, and good company.
Besides, without women, how would you ever get somebody to ask what many people have suspected since the 90s (we can thank Amber for this one): “Is Troy Aikman gay?”
God bless estrogen.