On Super Bowl Sunday: Stuck like glue to my guys.

I am sitting at a Starbuck’s on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in early January, tapping away at my laptop computer. The following is actual overheard dialogue between two middle-aged men. One is wearing the sort of New York Giants team jacket that makes perfect sense on an 8-year-old, but looks a little pathetic on guys my age. The other is wearing a knit hat with a New England Patriots logo on the front. I should note that this coffee shop is well-heated. We don’t need to be wearing our coats and our caps indoors.
Guy Number One: I can’t move during the fourth quarter if my guys got the ball.
Guy Number Two: You can’t or you won’t?
Guy Number One: I won’t. I don’t want to jinx anything. So I just sit on the couch and try not to move a single muscle. The first time my wife noticed, she thought I’d had a stroke.
Guy Number Two: So you stop eating?
Guy Number One: Who can eat in the fourth quarter?
At this point the second guy sat back in his chair and nodded his head in recognition.
When I reported this exchange to my wife later that morning, she looked a little worried. “You don’t do that, do you?” she asked.
“Sit immobile on the couch in the fourth quarter of football games?”
“Yes. That. And …”
“And what?”
“Refer to football players you’ll never meet as your guys.”
I reassured her that I didn’t — which was actually a complete lie, but given the look of concern on her face, one that she needed to hear.
So, here’s a confession: I do watch football. I’ll be watching at least some portion of today’s Super Bowl.
This surprises people. I am, after all, a person who was once called an “effete quiche-eating snob” on the news. A few Sundays ago my wife was chatting with a female friend of ours in Middlebury, and this other woman asked what I was up to that day. My wife said I was home watching football. Apparently our friend nodded sympathetically, and gave her that grave, so-sorry-for-the-death-in-the-family gaze. “I didn’t know he watched football,” she murmured, her voice tinged with sadness.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not a maniac. I have never painted my chest or worn cheese on my head, and I have never in my life owned a replica NFL jersey or reclined in an official NFL tailgater chair with a built-in cup holder. The only tailgate party I ever attended was at a college football game in Princeton, N.J., when I was nine years old, and it’s clear from the photos that I wasn’t having very much fun. I look cold and surly.
But I do watch football on television, especially as the season winds down and the games seem to mean something. In reality, of course, the contests mean absolutely nothing — unless you’re one of the players, the coaches, or you have a serious gambling disorder. But the stakes feel higher. One year I even had a Super Bowl party for my wife and daughter. I bought vats of angioplasty-inducing chip dips, some faux sandwich meat made from soy (Yum!), and a can of crispy fried onion rings, (which were, alas, completely inedible). I also bought beer, which we effete, quiche-eating snobs usually don’t have in the house. I presume a good time was had by all, at least during the halftime show — which, just for the record, did not have a wardrobe malfunction that year.
I don’t think people would be quite so nonplussed if they learned I secretly watched baseball. Baseball, after all, has a literary, quasi-intellectual aura to it, thanks in part to filmmaker Ken Burns and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and the fact that baseball fans rarely put cheese on their heads.
Still, as far as vices go, this one is pretty harmless — unless I start collecting official NFL bobblehead dolls. And wearing official NFL winter jackets. And, yes, publicly referring to really big people I’ve never met as “my guys.”
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press, February, 2006.)

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