Meredith C. Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem
August 23, 2010
I can’t imagine living somewhere where the seasons don’t change, as autumn is indisputably my favorite time of year.
Like brightly colored leaves crunching under every footstep, steaming mugs of hot cider, howling winds and the smell of wood-burning fires, nothing says fall like football. I don’t actually enjoy watching football, but as many women can probably understand, there are certain sacrifices that must be made for the men we love. Besides, if I were forced to pick an athletic event to watch, I’d probably opt for the pigskin anyway.
If I must sit through a football game, I prefer to see it in person instead of on TV. My Dad used to take me to New York Giants games when I was a kid. While the action on the field never held my interest for more than a few seconds, there was no bigger thrill than hanging out in the parking lot before the game, both of us using extra care not to spill the contents of our overstuffed sandwiches on the buttery leather seats of Mom’s car. No matter how much we bundled up in down jackets, gloves, hats and blankets, the moment the New Jersey sun set over the Meadowlands, we’d be frozen to the core. The only way I would consent to staying through half-time was with the assurance of a bottomless cup of hot chocolate.
While visiting Baton Rouge last year, I attended an LSU game and was happy to find the experience way more cultural than sporting. For instance, I wasn’t aware that purple and gold were color options for the Confederate flag. And it shocked me that the standard poodle I saw – dyed lavender from head to tail – apparently hadn’t bitten off the hand of its colorist.
Football’s companion programming is an industry unto itself. I watched ESPN’s “Sports Center” for the first time last year and I incorrectly assumed a special episode had aired on that particular night because it was better than any network prime-time drama. It had all the back-biting, bitch-slapping action and intensity of an afternoon soap opera. It was “Melrose Place” on testosterone. And last week, I was made to watch HBO’s “Inside the NFL.” One might say the show is about football, but only on an episode of “Queer as Folk” do you see more men smacking each other’s asses.
Tennis can be dramatic, too, but arguably the most theatrical moment in the game’s history happened off the court. Avid fans may remember in 1997 when Dan Rather was informed by his producers that a U.S. Open semi-final match between Steffi Graf and Lori McNeil was running long and would cut into his Evening News broadcast. Rather stormed off the set in a huff, leaving CBS with six minutes of dead air. That was good TV.
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Football season can last for up to six months, but excluding pre-season and assuming your team doesn’t make the playoffs, it’s only about 14 or 16 games. Like Michael Jackson every time he emerges from a plastic surgeon’s office, it could always be worse. Take hockey, for example. Hockey season lasts a minimum of 18 months a year. Each team plays 11 games a week and the highlights are almost exclusively footage of overgrown men knocking each other into the sides of the rink or getting into fights so brutal the blood literally bounces off the ice. Die-hard hockey fans measure the success of a game by how many fights break out – the more the better. I’ve been to a few hockey games over the years and the last time I went, I was on the winning side of a bet that there were more teeth in my comb than in the mouths of everyone in the sold-out ice arena. Besides, did anyone other than a few Canadians really miss hockey during last season’s lockout?
Unlike hockey, basketball and baseball (where the season endings are completely anti-climactic because of the countless best-of-seven playoff rounds), there’s no ambiguity as to when football season ends. And even the most sports averse among us love a good Super Bowl party. The one drawback is the recent advent of TiVo. Party-goers who are just in it for the 6-foot sandwiches, the unlimited booze and the multi-million dollar 30-second commercials are annoyed when a Super Bowl party host makes everyone suffer through re-watching the play that just happened 40 seconds ago instead of studying the water cooler conversation-worthy advertisements.
So while I might prefer to spend Saturday afternoons in the fall reading in front of a crackling fire or taking a walk in the crisp air, I don’t consider it a huge sacrifice to spend 66 or so hours a year sitting on a couch pretending to be interested in a football game. Life could be far worse (golf, boxing, soccer, wrestling, horse racing, NASCAR, bowling, volleyball).
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