Skipping the Super Bowl, and Loving It

Last Sunday, I skipped the Super Bowl for the first time as a sentient sports fan. Believe me, I still partied. But I wanted to know if I’d feel empty not watching America’s biggest sports spectacle.

 That resolution crept into my head sometime on Saturday while considering the NFL will probably be around forever. Its bloated spectacle of a title game will, apparently, just get longer, more watched and more ridiculous each and every year. So, why not take a break once in a while from my usual four to six hours reading up on the showdown, then watching the game and post-game? That time could be used to catch up on other things.

 And if ever one were to skip a Super Bowl, this seemed to be the year. The game rehashed a much more enticing recent version of the same matchup. The 2008 version featured an 18-0 New England team against the clear underdog New York. But Giants quarterback Eli Manning, in his Super Bowl debut, led an epic 17-14 upset of the Patriots. It seemed highly unlikely this year’s Super Bowl would create the same kind of drama. Anything less would be a disappointment.

  A sports columnist venturing into a Super Bowl Sunday sans NBC and the dulcet tones of announcers Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth is not unlike Columbus sailing west without a compass. To orient myself, I looked for my sports elsewhere and kept a log:

 4:20 a.m. Wife Susan leaves for work at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. I manage roughly 10.3 seconds of consciousness before plummeting back into blessed darkness.

 10:03 a.m. Putting up dishes, listening to a sports show by comedian brothers Randy and Jason Sklar. One Sklar notes that New England wide receiver Wes Welker is engaged to Miss Hooters International 2005. The other Sklar can’t believe the Hooters restaurant chain actually extends to other countries: “Cleavage and chicken tenders feels very American.” His brother replies: “It is. It’s more American than America Ferrera, or Freedom fries.”

2:33 p.m. Shooting basketball at the park with one hand, holding phone with the other. Mom, God bless her, is also excited about Susan’s pregnancy, which is now entering the second trimester. She’s brainstorming how to keep her first grandchild healthy, and tells me about something which comes off sounding like the Courvoisier of baby lotions. It’s from France. It’s almond oil-based. It’s infused with the scent of amaretto. And, for ultimate style points, it is all natural.

3:55 p.m. Reading Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Style section, incredulous smirk forming on face. Michael Storey writes that at 2 p.m. something called “Puppy Bowl VIII” roared onto the Animal Planet channel. It featured “terrier tackles,” “puppy penalties,” “fido first downs,” a blimp piloted by hamsters and a piggy pep squad that was to “ham” it up on the sidelines. Storey typically writes as the Dem-Gaz’s TV columnist or as a satirist under the pseudonym “Otus the Head Cat.” Sadly, though, the piece is no joke: this show apparently actually happened.

6:20 p.m. In the kitchen of a friend throwing a Super Bowl party, soaking up the event’s collateral benefits. As I bite into the delicious hindquarter of a pig cake, writer Eric Francis gives details about a cultural hot spot set to open in April on North Little Rock’s Main Street. It’s called “The Joint,” and sounds as protean as all get out. Coffee, beer, standup, improv, theater, piano – nearly anything you’d want, this place will offer. Most intriguing, the owners promise that on weekends the venue will be used for political comedy skits and satire. I applaud this. No democracy thrives without scrutiny, and scrutiny is more enjoyable through laughter.

8:15 p.m. Susan goes to sleep, and I fire up the ol’ Netflix, settling on “Road to the Big Leagues,” a documentary exploring why the dream of playing professional baseball inspires so many young Dominicans.

8:55 p.m. Towards the end, the filmmakers interview Vladimir Guerrero, who rose from poverty in the Dominican Republic to superstardom in Major League Baseball. Guerrero still often returns to his hometown and practices with the youngsters who idolize him. Afterward, he walks with them through the dirt streets on which he grew up and lets them swim in his nice home’s pool. At one point, the filmmakers ask Guerrero what he would do if he didn’t make millions of dollars playing what was once the United States’ most popular game. It doesn’t take him long to say he’d likely be spending his days farming okra or herding sheep.    Okra farmer. The very idea makes the nine-time All-Star laugh.

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