I went to a Super Bowl party this weekend, like I’ve done for the past couple of years. I don’t give a hoot about football, but I’m always in favor of an excuse to eat food of a dubiously healthy nature, catch up on the latest gossip, and scope out the commercials.
I know very little about football. After a crash course with my husband, I now know a little about downs and why you’re not allowed to grab another guy’s facemask, but the finer points continue to elude me. The first time I saw someone throw a flag, I asked who was throwing paper airplanes. (Seriously! That’s what it looked like!) I’m bright enough to know a really amazing throw/catch when I see one, but I can’t tell the difference between a fumble and an incomplete.
But all of that only illustrates my failings as a spectator. I’m not ashamed of being a lousy fan. At least I know better than to get in the way of the TV.
My real gripe about the Super Bowl – and maybe sports in general – is that it turns perfectly normal human beings into really frightening monsters.
On Sunday, I was watching the Super Bowl with a bunch of otherwise completely respectable people. I’m not even talking garden variety respectable – I’m talking about people who would probably offer you their kidneys if you needed one.
They were rooting for the Giants. No one out here has any special loyalty to that team, but a few in the crowd had grudges against the Patriots, and so anyone who could beat the Patriots was worth rooting for.
And that’s why, for the first half of the game, disparaging comments weren’t much worse than picking on Eli Manning’s skinny arms. As the game progressed and tensions mounted, however, people who are usually decent enough to remember that your grandma was in the hospital and ask after her health began shouting things like, “Kill him!” or “Take him out!” or (my favorite), “Break his legs!”
To everyone’s credit, never once did profanity enter the picture. The worst thing I heard was one exclamation – after an incomplete (or was it a fumble?) – of “Mother of Pearl!!” And I thought that was pretty funny.
But why all the vicious and violent smack talk? What is it about sports that turns respectable human beings into spectators at the Roman Colosseum? In history class we wonder how decent people could have given the thumbs down to any gladiator and then watched with glee as he was torn apart, but after surviving Super Bowl Sunday among a crowd of normally good people, I can see how easy it would have been. I don’t even want to imagine what it would have been like if I’d been at a bar or with a bunch of frat boys. Ye gads!
And so next year I think maybe I’ll stay upstairs with the other disillusioned wives, or maybe just stay home and read a good book.