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Sunday, Feb. 05, 2006
I couldnít let a Super Bowl Sunday go by without acknowledgement. Itís a day that, like it or not, has become a national holiday even though it is on a Sunday. You can just lay out of work the following day if you really need to associate Ďholidayí with Ďstay home from work dayí. Given the amount of booze thatíll be flowing today I imagine most people donít even look at Hungover Monday as an option anymore, but as a necessity.

Super Sunday fascinates me as a holiday. Itís the only holiday without a long historical precedent. Thereís nobody sliding down chimneys, no turkey to buy, no flags or fireworks. Itís just something fabricated for TV. Hell, the whole NFL is structured for TV and generally has been since I was a mere pup. Every Sunday, two or more games on network. Lots more if you buy the satellite package. Monday Nights! Sunday nights! Sometimes on Thursday, or Saturday!

There are times when I get to the point of believing that the Super Bowl is more a celebration of television than it is football. The ads, the halftime shows. What do they have to do with football for crying out loud?

But thatís all old news.

Itís still a fans game, after all. And if you happen to have grown up in a city that has a franchise youíre destined for fandom. Itís a disease. Itís a cultural glazing of the eyeballs whenever your home team happens to appear on a TV screen and youíre within eyeshot.

A fan from a hometown, males in particular, will remember long afternoon games of football in someoneís yard, flinging the ball and replicating past glories, wearing a precious hometown helmet you got for Christmas or a jersey for a birthday ( ď. . . and Mom, donít buy the white one, I want the blue one with the quarterbacks name and please donít get the cheap kind that donít have the logo on the upper sleeve . . .Ē). And the football itself. Man, there is nothing on earth that rivals the leathery smell of a new football, especially when youíre parked in front of the TV on a cold Sunday watching the boys roll downfield.

I am such a fan. Growing up where I did, in the vast wasteland of post apocalypse Western New York, I have such a team. And you all know who they are. I dare not mention their name here in printed form less some evil spell befall them, but you know them. They went to this self same Super Bowl four times running and came up short each time.

It was the first of those losses I remember best. Because I wasnít a kid playing sandlot football anymore. I was a big grown-up guy with kids of my own and a mortgage. I watched the team that shanít be named roll through the opposition like some unstoppable machine, coasting into the playoffs and decimating a very good Raiders team in the AFC finals. I sat and watched the last few seconds of that game and breathed a little irregularly. ďWeíre gonna be in the gotdam Bowl in two weeks!Ē

It was, I believe, the beginning of my slow slide into darkness. The last moment of the clean and naÔve way Iíd cherished since childhood. The entry into the purgatory that my life has become, and ever shall be, until the long wished for day arrives and there is triumph in the Bowl at last.

I was so sure that my team would win that first Bowl. I rounded up everybody that worked for my company at the time, and there were a lot of Ďem, and threw a party. Must have dropped $500 on catered food and beer, which was a chunk of change for me back then, with three young kids. Feeling pretty expansive, I was. Got my buddy to host it, put up cardboard footballs and the whole schtick. Cranked up every TV he had and more that were borrowed and settled in for a hoot.

I believe I was the only fan there for the team that shanít be named (oh some of the wives were supportive, if only for the fact that I was paying to feed their husbands). It was the Giants we were playing and for whatever reason it was a rabid NFC crowd, and I perched at the breakfast bar and tossed beers and was proud, proud to be rooting for the baddest team ever assembled.

The game ran long, longer than usual it seemed, and frighteningly so since my boys werenít winning. I recall very little of the game itself but I do remember that last play, the field goal which would have vaulted them (and consequently, me) to victory. Sitting there and praying to every deity I could think of to let that kick be good, on my knees and outright sobbing to the TV for righteousness, for atonement.

And it went wide, and I saw every hometown dream vanish. All the afternoon games in Daveyís yard, the leather football, the helmet proud on my dresser, the autograph from the quarterback, the jerseys and stickers and buttons and pictures? Somewhere in an instant, in closets and toy boxes and wardrobes they all combusted into dust and crept through floorboards to meld with the earth, never to be seen again.

Ally later told me that I let out a wail, as if ghosts were in possession of my very soul and truth be told, they likely were. I didnít break anything, or roll on the floor. Probably the most damage I did was to the remaining beverages in the big cooler.

That was fifteen years ago. My little death, as witnessed by dozens of coworkers and several bowls of salsa. The grim little moments.

What, you thought Iíd have a happy Super Bowl entry?

Besides, everybody knows it's all about the commercials.

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