Next Up? Super Bowl Twister.

My wife isn’t precisely allergic to football, but its charms are lost on her. To wit, she has no idea why so many plays begin with the quarterback seemingly poised to check the center’s prostate. “There just has to be a better way to hike the ball,” she once observed.
Likewise, my teenage daughter has far greater interest in the players when they are on the sidelines with their helmets off than when they are actually beating each other up on the field. One time when the two of us were in Manhattan, we thought we saw newly retired Giants running back Tiki Barber on the street in a black leather duster, and I thought she was going to start hyperventilating.
Put him in a helmet, however, and in her eyes, he goes from hunk to hulk.
Consequently, neither has a whole lot of interest in the Super Bowl. Actually, neither has (ITAL)any (END ITAL) interest in the Super Bowl.
Now, I should note that I know lots of women who care passionately about spectator sports, and take the Super Bowl far more seriously than I do. I also can tell you that my wife is a terrific athlete. She cares plenty about fitness and sports … so long as the fitness and sports don’t involve complete strangers.
Over the years, I’ve tried to make the Super Bowl exciting for my family by attempting to create a Super Bowl party-like atmosphere in our home on the big day. I began by introducing them to angioplasty-inducing football fare. One year I created a chips-and-dips buffet for us to sample while we — well, I — watched the game. Another year I poured a can of mushroom soup over a batch of frozen green beans and fried onion rings, and called it a casserole. It looked like something I’d found in a Dumpster, but it was definitely Super Bowl food.
I’m honestly not sure why I care about the big game — or football in general when it’s played by people I will never meet. I don’t completely understand why anyone cares about spectator sports, or why some sports are more popular than others. Why, for instance, do people prefer to watch football over Twister? And even if Twister isn’t as interesting as football, it has to be more compelling than poker, and heaven knows people are tuning in to watch televised poker these days.
I’ve read books and articles that examine why we care about sports: Why we root, why we call into sports radio talk shows, why we cheer and boo and argue and rant. I understand the hunger for power and control, I appreciate the desire to be a part of a herd. But still most of it is Byzantine to me.
Not, however, all of it. I can’t speak for other grown-ups who feel pangs of despair when (choose one) the Pats, the Sox or the Mets lose. But in my case, professional sports bring me back to my childhood in two satisfying ways.
First of all, I have concrete memories of curling up in front of the television set with a blaze in the fireplace and watching Giant football games as a little boy with my parents and my older brother. Or of sitting with them at Shea Stadium for twilight baseball doubleheaders in June. These are extremely comforting recollections because I am in the safe confines of my family in a moment that is completely free of internal strife.
Second, professional sports remind me of playground sports — and, again, of my youth. Like a lot of people, whenever I’ve played pickup softball or football, there has been an announcer in my head narrating the action. I am not batting against my neighbor, I’m up against Roger Clemens. It is not my cousin who launched that perfect spiral my way; it was Tom Brady.
My sense is there are worse ways to reconnect with one’s childhood. And there might even be some aerobic benefit to screaming like a crazy person at strangers on television.
So, bring on the chips and dips, and turn up the volume. It’s Super Bowl Sunday.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on February 4, 2007.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

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