The Superbowl Is Opaque

Hoping to enjoy the game with the guys this year, I read the rules in advance and developed what I thought was a pretty good working knowledge of football before the game started. It didn’t help. Understanding in the abstract what was supposed to be going on did not help to discern where the ball was or who was in possession of the play at any given moment. All I can ever see is a blooming, buzzing confusion of bodies. I can’t tell who has the ball until the play has ended.

After five years of trying (granted, not trying too hard), I have come to the conclusion that the excitement of football is permanently opaque to anyone who didn’t grow up with it. I was as confused at the end of the game as I was at the beginning, despite the bottomless patience of friends. Still, it’s a good opportunity to eat hot dogs and guac and enjoy good company. If I could only grok why it is they whoot! when they do. I’d just love to be able to relate to my father-in-law on this count.

Music: Caetano Veloso :: O Estrangeiro (The Stranger)

9 Replies to “The Superbowl Is Opaque”

  1. I dunno… I never watched football (and still don’t), and I definately didn’t grow up with it, but I have a pretty firm grasp of the rules and am able to do the song and dance if I am made to watch a game…

  2. Football – ah, that game which is not meant for non-US americans to understand (like cricket in the Commonwealth). Some people tell me that the point of football is to sit in the stadium, eat hot dogs, and just enjoy the spectacle :-)

    “Violence punctuated by committee meetings” — George Will

  3. I never was a big sports fan, but I started watching our football team (St. Louis Rams) a few years ago when they were really hot. To me, the basics are easy to understand–it’s the variety of penalties that are difficult.

  4. watch a few of ESPN Classic’s old Super Bowl highlight shows. they may still be showing them. you’ll get to see it slowed down and given dramatic context and better sound and no interruption time, and things should get clearer.

  5. mjang – The basics *seem* easy to understand when reading about them, but mapping that understanding to what’s actually happening onscreen is hard for me for some reason. Maybe it’s just a personal idiosyncracy.

    Thanks Chris – I just may look for some of those … next year ;)

  6. Sports are confusing if if you’re not exposed to them at an early age. For instance, I can’t figure out curling or Aussie rules football.

    I grew up playing backyard football. Even though I don’t watch the sport on TV anymore, I can follow along just fine. The penalties and instant replays ARE confusing. How come they don’t have do-overs in the NFL? ;)

  7. oh – i meant to tell you. ESPN classics was mentioned, but the back story wasn’t given: there is a company called NFL Films which has archival rights to all NFL games. The cool part: they shoot them on beautiful FILM and string together hilights reels that maximize all the nuance that makes football what it can be when its good (narrative thread, high-impact drama,[yuk yuk] etc etc). and it’s usually shown at about 20% speed. yknow those boxing hilights (eg in the Ali films of recent) where you can see each drop of sweat and spit fly off the guy’s face when he gets clobbered, and watch each one slowly float into the crowd? we’re talking that kind of detail. and none of the annoyances (time outs, commercials, penalties etc). give it one more shot next year, but try some NFL Films films first.

    or not. (cuz i know how it is…)


  8. I didn’t grow up watching or appreciating sports so I miss a lot of the nuance too. Some football games have been fun for me — watching with people who are enthusiastic and know how to explain helps, having a good game helps (instead of a 20-point-spread blowout). I also really enjoyed college games — going to the game and sitting there in the crisp fall air drinking beers and every now and then noticing what was happening on the field. But all too often I feel at the end of a game that I’ve just wasted 3 or 4 hours — and I sure felt that way Sunday. Football games are so *long*.

    As George Will said, football combines two of the worst aspects of American life: violence and committee meetings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *