Review Feature

Super Bowl presents a challenge for the super novice

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As everyone outside of my immediate world knows, the Super Bowl will unfold across America's big-screen TV landscape this Sunday.

Everywhere, that is, except my house.

I happen to be a complete and total sports dolt. And proud of it.

This is not to say that there are no athletic competitions I can appreciate. I like to watch professional boxing, for example, because it is the one sport I can understand. When one guy is lying motionless on the mat and bleeding profusely while the other guy is jumping around and signing commercial endorsement contracts, I instantly know who's winning and who's losing. Call it a psychic gift.

I once had the pleasure of interviewing actor Gregory Peck. As we shook hands, Peck mistakenly sized me up as a regular guy and started rattling off the day's latest-breaking football scores. When he tried to actually DISCUSS them with me, I had to apologize and admit to my sports doltishness.

"How is it possible," he asked, "for a fellow to grow up in America without learning something about sports? Didn't you play in school?"

I shook my head. "I was always skipping gym class to go to the movies. In fact, I skipped gym class 13 times to see 'The Guns of Navarone' starring Gregory Peck. So really, it's your fault."

"That," Peck replied, "is the only excuse I'll accept."

When I was a kid, the thought of chasing after some ball was never as exciting as the thought of watching Gregory Peck chase after Nazis, John Wayne chase after desperados, or anyone chase after Kim Novak. That rule continues to hold true today.

And it creates no problems in my life whatsoever ... until Super Bowl Sunday rolls around, and every male I know tries to engage me in a conversation about football and my favorite teams and players and games and who do I think is gonna win this year and whaddaya mean you don't even know who's playing?

Fortunately, I have found myself in this situation so many times that I have learned how to fake a fairly knowledgeable-sounding conversation on the subject of football.

Over the years, I have managed to absorb a few actual, impressive football terms during many years of TV channel-switching including "touchdown bomb," "pigskin," "end zone," "third quarter" and "clean, smooth shave." I have no idea what they mean, but they are firmly planted in my vocabulary, ready to be dropped whenever anyone asks me what I thought of The Big Game.

Me: "Wow! That was some touchdown bomb!"

Them: "You mean the one by so-and-so?"

Me: "Who else? And man, when the pigskin was at the end zone during the third quarter, it was a clean, smooth shave."

Having exhausted my repertoire, I then pretend to recognize someone very important at the other end of the room and make my escape.

OK. So maybe I don't fool everyone with this cunning ploy. In fact, the only human being I have ever fooled is my daughter, and she is going to wise up eventually. So rather than risk confirming her suspicions that Dad is a know-nothing buffoon, I recently decided to increase my sports IQ by sitting down and actually watching an entire football game.

It was quite an experience.

There were two teams. One wore maroon jerseys, the other wore puce jerseys. (That's what I think, anyway. The color's not too good on my set.) An umpire with no jersey at all (so he wouldn't be mistaken for a player, I guess) put the "pigskin" (the football, it turns out) in the middle of the field, and all hell broke loose.

Following a few dozen commercials ("clean, smooth shave," by the way, is not a football term), both teams ran back on the field. The master of ceremonies said that one player "leaped high into the corner of the end zone (!) and stretched to remain in bounds with his 21-yard catch, tying the score with 13:30 to go in the half." Later, another guy (I think) "iced the game with 1:46 in the final quarter by tacking his third touchdown bomb (!!), a 46-yarder 32-6!"

I swear, I was listening and watching real close, but somewhere in there, they lost me. Even so, I was very happy for the team that was jumping up and down at the end.

Maybe next year I'll watch an entire basketball game. Or maybe I'll just go to the video store and buy my daughter her own copy of "The Guns of Navarone" starring Gregory Peck.

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