Tuesday, February 06, 2007

An Immigrant's Super Bowl Ruminations

That time of the year when men and women are in a supposed tussle - women fight for the men's attention, men fight for the remote and the right to sit on their ass for four hours and not budge - has just passed. For some women, Super Bowl Sunday is the most hated day of the year and they have no qualms admitting it.

As for me, I spent all of last evening here in India reminding myself to wake up at five am so I could watch the game. If my husband hadn't called me from London at six am to tell me it was a good game, I would have slept on until seven when it would have been time to wake up my son for school. But at six am I scrambled out of bed, made myself a cup of hot tea and settled down to watch the game for an hour before the mad scramble of the morning began. I would have loved to watch the game with my husband, or better yet, with my group of friends that we usually watch the Super Bowl with back in the US.

Perhaps because I did not grow up in a football crazy culture and was not forced to spend Thanksgiving and many Sundays paying homage to men in tights bashing each other up, rather because I came to the game as an adult around the same time the men in my life came to it as well, I actually love the game. (On the other hand, I grew up in a cricket-crazy culture and am a huge cricket fan too - so perhaps it's just me. I just love to watch games on TV.)

So for the past few years, the SuperBowl ritual has been to gather at one particular friend's house, with the requisite 50 inch TV, in Maryland. We all bring one dish, an assortment of Indian and typical Super Bowl fare, a few snacks and drinks and our kids. By the time everyone gathers in the early evening, the kitchen counters are overflowing with food and drink, the corridors and the family room floor between the TV and the sofas are overflowing with kids and the sofas are overflowing with people.

There's good natured jousting for the prime seat (a single La-Z-Boy with a drink holder), with one or the other of the big men trying to stretch out on a sofa that could easily take three more people. There's noise emanating from all manner of Elmo toys, toy vacuum cleaners and tricycles. One group in a corner of the kitchen or the family room argues loudly about loyalties and which team will win. The host waves his Superbowl pool sheet under their noses in a vain attempt to grab their attention.

Most of us, not having grown up in the US, really don't have a "home" team that the whole family roots for. Our loyalties spring from where we live (and unfortunately for us, the Redskins suck big time) or where we've gone to school. One or the other of us will find a player from our college team and he or she will latch on to that team to root for. Some of us go back to the season and the playoffs and try to connect a team to the one that beat the Redskins, some of us just go by how cute the quarterback is or his status as a legend. Sometimes, we just want a particular coach to win, forget the players or the team (for me, in basketball, Pat Riley was such a coach).

Watching the game itself is a chaotic affair. People mill around the kitchen, which has a clear view of the television, change seats, run after the kids, adjudicate disputes, munch on snacks, rate the Superbowl ads, bang on the floor with all available appendages at fumbles, turnovers and interceptions, eat, drink a lot of beer, roar in approval at a touchdown - in fact, do everything but go to the bathroom.

The time reserved for that important activity is the half-time, which is when all the poor souls who could not find a comfortable seat during the game zip into any available ones.

So, at the Super Bowl two years ago, my last Super Bowl before moving to India, everyone but two of us, me and female friend, was up and about the house paying no attention to the television whatsoever. Only our squeals and a simultaneous high-pitched, "Did you see that!?" turned every one's heads. Of course, by then, it was too late. The "Wardrobe Malfunction" had corrected itself and there was nothing but confusion on the stage (staged or otherwise, you tell me) and expressions of horror from the hosts.

The irony of the situation was not lost on the guys, but the shortcoming in their Super Bowl experience was quickly rectified the next morning (YouTube would have been so handy then) thanks to downloads of what has turned out to be a cultural watermark of our times.

I know many arguments are advanced for negating the notion that football is a men's game and only men derive enjoyment from it - apparently more than fifty percent of NFL fans are women (at all the Redskins games I've been to there were a lot of women); women are more aware of statistics and the game's history than men are, etc.

But, what I'm really saying is this - what's not to love about a game in which you can watch tight ends to your heart's content; in which, once in a while, you can watch history being made as new expressions that become ensconced in the lexicon are manufactured right in front of your eyes; where some coaches and his "boys" seem to develop this bond that is displayed for all the world to see on the field; where the entire families of the teams seem invested in the success of their men; when otherwise intelligent and reasonable men happily put on pig faces and cheese heads and actually show up in public and on national television?



Anonymous said...

Yeah I remember the "wadrobe malfunction" we were like what was that about? We didn't even think it was such a big deal till the next day when it was all over the news.


Anonymous said...

The game sucked big time this year...No news, no trash-talking, no "Guarantee's", no major storylines, no heroes in the game and one of the dullest last 10 mins of a football game I ve ever seen -all in all pretty boring. Wish it was the Saints against the Pats - would have been a lot more fun. The ads were OK (Bud and Doritos being the most memorable).

Sujatha Bagal said...

Vinay, yeah, it was bigger the next day. All that hoopla was fun though.

M, unfortunately we didn't get to see the ads here in India. Got some lame ads for soccer, mostly programming ads.

Vz said...

The Superbowl was hardly interesting this year. Grossman was miserable. Could only watch it for Manning and his team. Hailing from a country that calls 'foot' ball for a reason, I got hooked onto the American football only three yrs. back. I remember the "big deal" I made about my first Superbowl....it will remain my best, New England vs Panthers!

Sujatha Bagal said...

Vidhya, I loved that game too, and there was some superstition running around that if the Patriots lost Kerry would lose or vice versa. One more layer to the drama. It was a lot of fun!

RPM said...

I agree, football is not merely a man's game to watch. I am pretty sure most women who watch the Super Bowl may not have watched more than 1 other game in the regular season but they would still enjoy the Super Bowl - partly because of being together with friends, partly like you said because of the cuteness of the QB ;-)

In my house, the wife watches football and college football with me, though she is a fickle fan - as soon as her team goes down by a few points, she gives up on the team!

Great post, by the way. Reminded me of quite a few Super Bowls I have attended in the past. Of late, its been down a bit because of "new" parent syndrome. Maybe in a year or two, if we are still around in the US, we will restart. Of course, its hard to replicate it in India given that it would be Monday morning at 5 or so! :-)

Sujatha Bagal said...

Thanks USC. Yes, you lose a little bit of the atmosphere at 5 in the morning!