"We don't have to watch the game," I told Q as we drove to our first Super Bowl party ever. I have not watched a football game since I was fourteen. "We can just talk to people." Neither of us are football fans. I didn't even know who was in the Super Bowl. Which teams were we on our way to watch?
And we did chat with people throughout the first quarter, about mutual friends, church politics, peoples' children. I would look at the screen when a commercial came on -- they seem fresh and funny to me, since I never see them -- and turn my attention elsewhere when the two rows of different colored players lined up and prepared to crash into each other yet again.
Soon, however, the cheers and groans from other partygoers made me curious. Even Q was cheering and groaning from time to time, so there must have been something to it. I went and sat next to him on the floor, so we could hold each other up like bookends and he could fill me in on what was happening. There was much to see, and that was before a scowling Janet Jackson exposed one bare breast during the half-time show, mitigating somewhat the effect of the fact that she was covered from head to foot in chainmail. Half-time shows used to display the skill of marching bands.
But there was poetry I didn't expect on the field. Immense young men who seemed able to fly, leaping into the air beyond the reach of their adversaries. Running like the very wind, weaving back and forth and breaking free from the crowd of their pursuers. Horrid crushes of bodies, scenes of battle Homer might have written about, heaps of human beings extracting themselves carefully from the pile. Just one of the bodily collisions I saw at the Super Bowl would have me at home for a week; they all got right up, though, and continued playing, none the worse for any of it. A tie was not broken until four seconds before the end of the game. That's really something, even in a game in which a minute can last half an hour.
Such physical power. Such physical perfection. Almost all of them end up with significant orthopedic disabilities: permanently ruined knees, rotator cuffs, painful backs. Some of them get killed out there. None of them play past forty, and they're old by the time they're thirty. A career lasts for seven or eight years, then.
Nobody was killed on the field last night, although one person died in Boston, run over by another fan in an SUV. People drank themselves into oblivion and then went out into the street in their cars. Actually, I guess they did that all over the country. "Get yourselves home right away," said a man at the party, "There are more fatalities after the Super Bowl than at any other time of the year."
On the way home, I thought of all I had seen. Of the dancers at half-time -- such violent, sexual, angry dancing. Of the commercials, some so witty, some so unwittingly sad. Of the players who could fly, of how fast they ran when they could break away from the pack. Of the same players, thirty years from now, slow and stiff, addicted to their painkillers. Of the two fans, one whose life is over and the other whose life is changed forever. I enjoyed the game, much more than I thought I would. Still, of all the things for which one might give one's life, I wonder where the Super Bowl might rank.