Super Stuff

Artie’s Megtastic Brontoplasm Heavy Definition MonsterScreen (not its real name) loomed at the end of the den. TechBoy was racing around fitting his EarPiercer MaxVol Screamers — these were not your dad’s stereo speakers — the better to further stun the cerebral nerve endings of the only geezer invited to the Super Party. (That would be me.) Eight trays of wings were on the table – one for each of us, as it groaningly turned out – along with crunchies, chewies and slurpies. We weren’t a beer-swilling crowd, but we were ready to assert our North American manhood in every other way we could. After all, da Colts wuz playin’ da Bears for the World Championship of the Excited States of American Football. Hooting and hollering ensued, especially during that wacky first quarter, and Sparky, one stressed-out and neurotic little pup, went canine straitjacket on us. Ya gotta love living room sports.

The commercials. I soon realized I was with a crowd that was at least as interested in the ads as the third-down conversion rates, and I’m not just talking about Artie’s wonderfully excitable Mom. (These guys were more into the technical aspects of the telecast reception than in any Manning-to-Harrison connection. Vafa meditated at length on how the virtual first-down line was generated). Somehow, we were able to get the American commercials – including a stunningly amateur one from Detroit replacement window installers who take fibreglass very seriously – instead of the Global Canuck substitutes. (Take that, CRTC!!) There was a busy and amusing series of Lord of the Flies work-is-a-jungle-riot ads for a job-search company. There was an uncomfortably homoerotic and homophobic (tough double!) spot that I can’t imagine will sell a lot of Snickers bars. As usual, Bud Light has some of the best creative minds in America helping it to sell insipid and slightly poisonous beverages. (Best line of the night: But he’s got a chainsaw!)

And Coke poured more megabucks into helping us to associate sugar, caffeine and gas with our psychological well-being. The incredibly expensive video-game styled ad, in which Joe Cool rights all the wrongs of the street and inspires a giddy festival of urban happiness, was one that I quite liked. It’s a 2007, hyperactive version of the old I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony / I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company. (I know it’s a tooth-rotting soft drink, but I’m a sucker for brotherhood and global harmony.) The chiselled young men I was with didn’t appreciate the “Wonderland in the Coke Machine” ad much, but I could see it through the eyes of the little boys that have lived in my house for so long. It was imaginative, incredibly expensive, and pretty darned cute. I waved a sourpuss white flag, though, for the salute to Black History Month, which appeared to link Holy Coca-Cola with all the most heroic moments and characters in the African American story. Yecch. That was but one expression of the Dungy/Lovie factor, the aren’t we a wonderful country to have black coaches for the all the dark young men that we pay so well to entertain us sentiment. Not to mention that CBS Cares, apparently, about much more than ratings, although the accompanying series of images of beautiful black children and noble black elders seemed, well, just a little too self-congratulatory. But maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh: even clumsily celebrated racial progress is racial progress. (I think.)

The game. I like football. My playing days are a foggy image in a cracked rear-view mirror. (The older I get, the better I was. What a great line. Wish I’d written it, wonder who did.) I don’t even watch it that much anymore, though I read more pigskin commentary than is healthy. It was my first time seeing the Lovie Smith Bears, but I’ve seen the Colts several times over the last few years. I’m a great admirer of Tony Dungy, and was anxious to have all the call-in sports radio meatheads stop braying about Peyton Manning being over-rated. (Envy grows like a titanic and atom-powered cancer among low self-esteem sports fanatics.) I was pulling for the Colts.

Early on, it looked like I was rooting for the white-hatted cowboys who were about to be chewed up by the baddies. What a crazy, sloppy, interesting first quarter, so unlike the usual tense blandness. By halftime, though, a Colts victory was looking pretty inevitable, as long as they refused to kick to Devin Hester. I stayed tuned in to the play, though most of my younger brothers had gone to cyber-geek guy talk that I can barely understand. I was a little disappointed (how greedy can I be?) that the Horseshoes couldn’t translate their skill and power into a more dominating final score. It’s a bit mean-spirited, I admit, but I was pleased to think of Edgerrin James – the former star runner for the Colts who left them for extra millions – watching the SB in a football desert. I loved the cleverness of Joseph Addai, James’s replacement, with his quickness and subtle spins and shifts. I was thrilled by that gorgeous toe-dragging sideline catch by Marvin Harrison; one of the unfilmed highlights of my football “career” was an eleventh-grade grab a little bit like that. (In my mental video library, anyway.) The Sanders interception of a one-winged duck thrown by Bears QB “Bad Rex” Grossman reminded me painfully of the worst ball I ever threw to a wide-open, touchdown-ready teammate. (It was grade 12, and that quacking attempt at a long pass was in the air so long I could’ve almost run and caught it myself. The coach switched me to linebacker soon afterward). And I was grateful that the deeply Christian Dungy didn’t echo the Colts’ owner’s proclamation — did you hear it? — of the Universal Creator’s undivided interest in the gridiron success of the Colts. (Such a little God! No wonder so many people find it hard to believe.)

When I was a kid, the ferocity of football was attractive, though it was always the sweet catch, the nimble cut, the tightly spiralling throw or punt that really thrilled me. As an adult, I came to see that football is the best TEAM game there is. In a high school, say, it has the potential to do more for the spirit of a large group of (possibly) undermotivated and emotionally isolated young men than anything short of wars and revolutions. Sorry to go all socio-political on you, but I guess I’m glad that the Colts won without the worst of the in-your-face, look-at-me macho freakshow posturing that takes so much away from the team feeling of football played well. And despite all those fumbles, there was some good football to watch last night, in between the main attractions. Thanks for the High Def, Mr. B. It was good to pretend I was 22 for awhile.

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