Earlier today, I turned to my friend Nick and said: “I feel like an anthropologist encountering a bizarre new culture.”
He replied: “You mean, American culture?”
We were at his house, watching the sport of foote-ball on a Sunday afternoon, something I hadn’t done in . . . well, I’m not certain I’ve ever done it, really. Mind you, this was Nick?s house, so it wasn’t the normal, wussy sort of foote-ball-watching that I assume most patriotic Americans engage in on Sunday afternoons. Nick has a refrigerator in his basement with a spigot on the outside connected to a keg on the inside. For the watching of the foote-ball, he puts a second, smaller TV underneath the big one in the entertainment center. Both of them are hooked up to DirecTV, so that they can be tuned to any of the games that are playing nationwide. Naturally, he also has a TiVo so that the big TV can be rewound when necessary and is constantly recording content on two different channels. Then there’s the laptop, wirelessly connected to broadband, which sits on the coffee table. It’s hooked up to a DirecTV website that constantly updates stats on the running football games, and flashes red under games when exciting things are happening or are about to happen.
The result of all this is a constantly shifting and (to me) utterly baffling parade of football footage across the screen. Without a mind trained and weathered by years of foote-ball, I quickly lost track of which game was on or whether what we were watching was live or, thanks to the TiVo, occurring at some previous point in the timestream.
The games themselves were interesting enough, but the lead-ins, lead-outs, and pre-game hooplah were another matter entirely. It appears that television sports execs actively seek out all the producers and directors that MTV has rejected for being “too frenetic” and “too busy.” (These must be the same people that boldly pioneered the use of animated gifs in web design in the 90s.) No stat, picture, or sidebar is complete without one of the several thousand different whooshing sounds that the networks have at their disposal. By far the most disturbing sight, though, was the pregame practice of having the commentators reenact a play from some previous game on a little make-believe football field in their studio. Now, I’ve watched enough of the foote-ball in my life to know that this practice has got to be relatively new. Who in Sam Hill thought this up? It’s not like these guys actually redo the play, because they’re all ex-jocks with joints primed to crumble into dust at a moment’s notice, so they lurch around awkwardly like poor saps from the audience dragged onto the stage of an improv show. Fortunately they lighten the moment by making wise cracks about touching each other’s butts — oh no, wait, that actually makes it infinitely more disturbing.
All that aside, I still enjoyed myself, though I have grown envious of foote-ball fans. Clearly they possess a special, extra compartment in their brain devoted to storing foote-ball trivia and statistics. I assume this must be the case because if I had to retain the amount of lore they are able to draw upon at a moment’s notice, it would quickly edge out other important data such as the complete lyrics to “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” the fact that Thundarr the Barbarian’s sidekicks are named Ariel and Ookla, and how to brush my teeth.
I can’t say I’ll be back every Sunday afternoon. OK, probably not even intermittently. Maybe for the Superbowl. For the commercials. But in the meantime, I wish all foote-ball watchers and players the very best. Wear your gloves proudly and keep your eye on the puck!