Monday, February 05, 2007

Daaaa bears: a Superbowl poseur's tale of two cities

(Published on Feb. 4, originally under the title "Losing Touch with the Touchdowns: The Transformation of a Former Football Fan")

Celebrating the Superbowl has changed a lot for me in the last five years. And it's all Boston's fault.

I'm not sure if it's just me--because let's face it, we've come a long way when Britney Spears' rock-hard abdomen has now given rise to two children and a lawsuit, and the best the halftime show can do to replace her is to bring in a tiny '80s pop star with ambiguous sexuality and cape-wearing backup dancers. Aren't the Stones still touring? Wouldn't that have sufficed?

Okay, so I think I may share this viewpoint with the rest of the country. But inside, I think I am no longer suited for the Superbowl. A slow change, wrought by living in a city with a slew of gourmet food stores and high general IQ, has transformed me from a Suburban Football Fan into an Aloof Boston Professional. Like the nuclear sludge that turned a handful of turtles into a quarted of spaced-out ninjas, the ambiance of this city has changed me into a being with a higher consciousness, a much cooler outfit and some interesting talents I picked up from the wise teachers I've had here--but it has robbed me of the inability to enjoy the things I used to love when I was a simpler creature, such as playing Flip Cup in a cold basement.

One day, the Ghost of Superbowls Past is going to come along and find me at my desk, belaboring a lede and secure in the knowledge that a sushi roll and a stick of sandalwood incense awaits me in my apartment. He will take me away and show me what I've been missing, and the contrast between yesterday's Superbowl experience and one from five years ago will be stark and telling. I can see the scenes unfolding now:

Scene 1: The pre-game ritual
Five years ago: I wake up early. I find my super-cool "Seniors" hoodie tumbling around in my dryer (it was great to have the use of laundry facilities that didn't cost $5 a load, I will reflect while watching myself with the Ghost) and put it on. Outside, a car honks: it's my high school friends, waiting in a red beat-up Jeep in the driveway (it was great to have more than one friend with a car, I think). We stop at the grocery store to pick up Lays Potato Chips and Bison dip. We all pile into the home of a friend whose parents have scored last-minute tickets to the Superbowl in another state (as this is Buffalo, we know our team will not be one of the two sparring today). At 10 a.m., we crack open a cold one, take the hot dogs out of the freezer to thaw, and turn on some Dave Matthews Band. It's eight hours til kickoff, but who's counting? We've got enough burgers and beer to last us until tomorrow, right?

This year: I schedule a coffee meeting at 11 a.m. because I have forgotten it is Superbowl Sunday. I sip a grande vanilla mocha latte with my companion, and we discuss art galleries and a friend's nonfiction work-in-progress. I no longer eat meat, so I snack on a bowl of berries and granola. On my way home, I call some friends and invite them to come over. They agree on the basis of the fact that they "like watching the commercials." Unfortunately, none of us know what time the game starts, so I tell them to look it up. I stop at the local co-op to pick up organic avocados and soy-based mayo substitute make homemade guacamole for my "party." At home, I do some yoga while waiting for my guests. Within fifteen minutes of arriving, they are bickering over whether the guacamole needs more lemon pepper or garlic salt. As a result, we miss the kickoff.

Scene Two: Which team are you rooting for?
Five years ago: Five guys are gathered around a smoky pool table, using a complicated form of sports calculus to determine which team is appropriate to cheer for based on their degrees of separation from our hometown team. As always, in a nod to U.S. early-90s foreign policy, the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" theory is employed by someone who suggests that whoever has most recently beaten the Dolphins is eligible to be "our" team for the evening. Finally, after much deliberation, a side is chosen. Using a formula that is just as arbitrary-but-meaningful ("Well, my cousin lives in Boulder, so I guess I'll root for the Broncos") a minority of people choose the opposing team "so that it will still be fun."

This year: The Colts and the Bears were playing, but no one could remember which cities they came from or what their histories were. We settled on the Bears based on an esoteric Saturday Night Live skit in which the protagonist (who was a much better football fan than we were) constantly thought about "Da Bears." We repeat this phrase whenever anything happens and count that as "cheering." Even when they fumble. Or injure themselves. We just don't know what's going on. Daaaaaaaaa bears.

Scene three: The beer run
Five years ago: By 2 p.m., the keg's "tapped" and the tower of Natural Ice 30-packs purchased by someone's older brother has been reduced to a rubble. The three most recently-arrived and therefore sober guests are appointed to bring more back. "What should I get?" they ask. The resounding response from the crowd comes in a unified roar: "Something cheap!" The result is like something out of Willy Wonka's liquor cabinet: Sprite, Mike's Hard Lemonade, Parrot's Bay, Rolling Rock. Nothing matches or mixes, but everyone just makes a face and downs it anyway.

This year:
"I think we have some Shiraz left over from New Year's, don't we?" I asked my boyfriend while out shopping. "Yes, and plenty of Blue Moon and Birra Rossi," he replied. Just to be safe, I picked up some Amstel on my way home at Trader Joe's. But then, we realized that we had beer imported from Belgium, Italy, and Holland--but nothing domestic. This did not seem "appropriate," so someone picked up some "traditional beverages": Bud Light and PBR. Unfortunately, my female friends refused to drink this, so it was consumed in mass quantities by the only sports fan in attendance. Come to think of it, I can understand why.

Scene four: trash-talking
Five years ago: the conversation before halftime is about the recent loss of Flutie to the San Diego Chargers. "They're nothing without him, man--he was their heart and soul!" someone says. "Are you kidding? No, man we have a really good defense this year. One man can't carry the whole team," another Bills fan interjects. Suddenly, the crowd on television cheers, and everyone turns to watch. The QB is gunning down the field. Then, he fumbles. "Whoa, whoa, what's he doing?" someone shouts. "What's he doing?" Then, the predictions start. "I bet he's going to use the Hail Mary play." Later, this prediction comes true. "What did I tell you, dude? What did I tell you! They used that one in '83."

This year: The conversation before halftime is about Prince's musical influences and choice of material. "Of course he's derivative of Jimi Hendrix," someone intones. "But Jimi wasn't, like, that flamboyant," says the girl who refused to drink the Bud Light. "He reminds me more of Little Richard." The other person shakes her head. "Almost everyone is derivative of Little Richard. He probably inspired Jimi Hendrix. And what do you mean, Hendrix was not that flamboyant? Did you not see his performance on Woodstock? Dude." Suddenly, the crowd on television--composed only of suspiciously high-pitched female voices--cheers, and everyone turns to watch. Prince is strutting out onto a giant symbol representing himself, wearing a doo-rag. "What is he doing?" someone groans. "What is he doing?" Then, the predictions start. "It's raining -- I bet he's going to play 'Purple Rain.'" Later, this prediction comes true. "Dude, what did I tell you? I told you he was going to play that song." Someone else interjects. "Didn't he sing that one in like, '83?"

Scene five: Post-game denouement
Five years ago: after a day spent choking down cheap malt beverages and inhaling half of a farmyard with ketchup, everyone is too tired to get off the couch when the game ends. Weak motions are made to arrange for rides home, as no one is fit to drive; football pool monies are dutifully doled out. At least ten people gather quietly around the table to mourn the inevitable end of Monday Night Football. The other ten step outside for a cigarette. Eventually, someone turns on a Seinfeld rerun.

This year: no one notices that the game is over. Finally, someone breaks away from a stimulating discussion on the number of calories in the beer and pizza we just consumed to ask, "Who won?" Someone who's not "da bears," the lone sports-loving guy tells us. We shrug. No one wants to go home--there's still another pizza and a rumor of some Ben and Jerry's organic ice cream in the fridge--so we discuss what we'll do next. Then my boyfriend asks, "Does anyone want to watch some Aqua Teen [Hunger Force]?"

That, I think, seals it. According most major media news outlets, we are "mainstream" no longer. And there's no going back.

I can accept this. But please, Ghost of Superbowl Future, please don't show me what's in store for next year's halftime show. With the way things are going, it will probably be Boy George and Vanilla Ice.


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