Explaining football to a grandchild, before her first Super Bowl:
First, you take a pig. You either make some garlic-butter pork bites, or you make a football.
If it’s a football, then your next step is to form a team. You draft a lot of big guys, angry guys, guys with boundary issues. No judgment. They have to work somewhere.
As novelist Norman Mailer once said, sometimes you put a fence around an impulse. Then you put a fence around the fence (an old Talmudic belief).
These guys you have on your team? They have no fences. And frankly, neither did Norman Mailer.
The goal of a football game is simple: To score a touchdown. How you do it doesn’t matter. Murder. Trickery. Mayhem. Deceit. Grace. Subterfuge. Fraud. Chicanery. All completely legal.
If you’re a Patriot, you cheat. If you’re a Chicago Bear, you don’t even score a touchdown. If you’re a Packer, you cheer as this hippie-hairy Jesus dude leads you to victory.
Again, no judgment. As the Bible says: “Just win, baby!”
If you manage to score more touchdowns than the other team, you win. There are other ways to score, but nobody cares about them. Field goals and extra points are like lousy goodnight kisses. No one needs them.
You still with me, Catty Cakes? Good. Try not to drool so much, OK? Seriously, have you been drinking?
Cakes, as you know, I am not much for structure or tradition. My best sentences have two predicates and no subject.
This is why football resonates with me. It is total turmoil, it is poetry, it is jazz, though if you watch the fans too much, you will lose faith in humanity, or at least a functional law-based society.
So don’t watch the fans.
And don’t watch “the zebras.” Those aren’t really zebras. An NFL game has seven zebras. They call that a herd. Actually, they call them a lot of things. But a herd is one of them.
FYI, there are way too many zebras. There should be one, as with soccer. Zebras are like traffic cops; they hurry into bad situations, then make them worse.
When refs can’t make up their minds, they go to “replays.” Replays are a way of reviewing what just happened, in perpetuity, beyond the confines of time itself. Some reviews take hours, others years. Trust me, replays are the worst thing to happen to football since those moldy indoor stadiums.
Sometimes, you see female refs. This is an important development, because women deserve a chance to have beer thrown at them by total cretins too, just like the men.
Listen, I have seen every single Super Bowl so I’d like to tell you what to expect on Sunday:
The game will start with a kickoff, then a touchback, then a commercial, then another commercial. This weekend’s Super Bowl will be nothing but commercials. Only a few of them will be any good. If you’re at a big party, people will laugh way more than they maybe should. It’s what psychologists call “mass hysteria.”
Then you’ll come back to the game, see an incomplete pass, then a replay, then another commercial, then an NBC promo for a new show no one will ever watch, even though it debuts right after the Super Bowl. Such is the sad state of network TV. They really have only themselves to blame.
A typical Super Bowl takes — maybe, what? — seven hours max, no more than that. The halftime alone is four hours and somewhat troubling, depending on your age and education level. It’ll be enjoyed by three Millennials and a GenZer.
By the end of the game, your uncles and grandpas will have eaten themselves into a food coma. Predictably, they forgot to put the fence around the fence. If it can be shucked, sucked, snorted, chewed, gargled, slurped, quaffed, or pounded, your uncles will have eaten it – including a Kilimanjaro of guacamole and half the world’s supply of sweaty shrimp.
Decadent? Yes. And it produces a very satisfying burp. As a baby you understand the importance of burps, right?
To quote Shrek: “Better out than in.”
Especially beware of fans who eat celery at a Super Bowl party. They are boring. Never marry one. Don’t even date one. They are usually neo-Marxist troublemakers, like my buddy Siskin. At the very least, they’re food scolds, which is really worse than being a neo-Marxist troublemaker.
But I love Siskin, I really do.
Occasionally, people will yell very loudly at these parties. Don’t be alarmed. They are decent people leading decent lives. They have little joy, except for this. When their team scores, they score. When the season ends, a little part of them – their hearts, their minds — goes into hibernation till next football season. All nature has cycles like that.
Well, Cakes, that’s about it for the intricacies of American football. In the spring, I’ll explain the grand old game of baseball. Talk about burping!
If you play your cards right, I’ll even show you what pitchers like to call “a screwball.”
Yep, I’m talking about your Uncle Smartacus.
Actually, Uncle Smartacus was pretty good at baseball. If you’re lucky, maybe he’ll teach you all the wrong things that I once taught him. Open your hips. Wiggle your butt. Close your eyes. Swing for the fences.
Sports is good that way. It unites us through generations of terrible advice.
Till then, I know you usually nap on Sunday afternoons. This weekend, don’t even try. For, if the folks in the next room don’t wake you, the folks next door probably will. At times, it sounds like a hockey brawl featuring 100 million Hanson Brothers.
FYI, your lovely and patient mother probably screams the loudest of anyone. I trained her too, you know.
Happy Super Bowl.
Happy Valentine’s Weekend. Don’t fear affection. Hug a big hamburger, or a rack of ribs, as I always do. And for some last-minute Super Bowl recipes, check out this piece from the other day (recipes are toward the end). For a primer on visiting LA for the big game, you might like this. Maybe not. Don’t judge. Just win, baby!