Bowled over by football

Kevin Cowherd

January 04, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

It is amazing the amount of nagging a person can b subjected to just for watching football.

"I think you have a real problem," my wife said yesterday.

At this point in the conversation, I had not moved off the couch in several days. The room was musty and the blinds were drawn and only a narrow beam of light from the TV pierced the darkness.

A thin layer of pretzel crumbs covered my face and my eyes were heavy-lidded and unfocused, like a man who had spent the afternoon in the basement inhaling paint thinner.

"You should think about professional help," my wife said.

Sure. Professional help. Like I had time to go see a shrink in the middle of all this.

Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Citrus Bowl . . . it was all starting to run together now, a deafening, Technicolor jumble of helmets smacking, pads crunching, quarterbacks dropping back, frenzied coaches pacing the sidelines, freshly scrubbed cheerleaders and beer commercials.

Rose Bowl, Orangae Bowl, Sugar Bowl . . . stop me before I click again.

Redskins-Vikings, Chargers-Chiefs . . . Gertrude Stein was right. There is no there there.

In the midst of this grueling, 72-hour odyssey of football-watching, there came an altogether frightening moment when I . . . I just flipped out.

I forget what game it was. Oilers-Bills maybe. Or Eagles-Saints. I don't know, they all seem the same after a while. Besides, what difference does it make?

Whatever game it was, this running back took the handoff and broke over left tackle and the stadium filled with noise.

And suddenly I heard myself scream: "RIP HIS DAMN HEAD OFF!"

The funny thing was, we had just returned from church. There I had prayed for the salvation of mankind, forgiveness for whatever few venial sins I may have committed, and a short homily from the sad-eyed priest.

The sad-eyed priest had disappointed me again, launching into a long, numbing sermon about the spiritual frailty of man vis-a-vis any slight chance any of us have of eventually walking through the pearly gates.

Nevertheless, I had left church with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

And then . . . I don't know. When I saw this running back break free, something inside me snapped. And I wanted to . . . to see the man's head severed from his torso and rolling along the Astro-Turf like a bowling ball.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

Still, there is something about watching football that brings out the dark, violent side of people.

The game itself is all about pain. And intimidation. Throw five men in a room with a 27-inch Sony and a hard-hitting game, and the whole scene is not far removed from the primordial ooze.

The smell of testosterone and stale Budweiser and salty snacks and greasy, artery-clogging meats and cheeses . . . God help me, but I love it.

Maybe my wife is right. Maybe I do need professional help. Maybe a session or two of reclining on a sleek Scandinavian leather couch and pouring my heart out to a small, bald man who is alternately yawning and glancing at his watch would help me understand this obsession with football.

I'll tell you something I don't like about watching football: The endless shots of frothing, bug-eyed fans holding up their index fingers and screaming "We're No. 1!" at the TV cameras.

I see people do that and I walk around for the rest of the day feeling like Louis Pasteur.

In that respect, football can be very self-affirming. You watch enough of that kind of idiotic behavior and you feel like the smartest person on Earth.

Unfortunately, it's not just beered-up fraternity jocks doing that stuff, either.

I was watching a game -- Redskins-Vikings, maybe; look, I'm a little confused, OK? -- when the camera zeroed in on four glassy-eyed guys in the cheap seats.

All four of them had to be 40 or older. Not only were they bare-chested and hoisting the requisite 12-oz. beers, but they were also wearing -- you might want to take a deep breath here -- pig snouts.

Boy, there's a Kodak Moment for you, huh? I wonder if any of their wives were back home watching proudly and thinking: "Yep, there's my Clint and his buddies, loaded in Section 21 again."

I could imagine one of their kids climbing on the school bus the next day and hearing: "Hey, Johnny, was that your dad on TV holding up a Heineken and wearing a pig snout?"

You talk about needing professional help.

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