ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FURBALL?

In honor of today’s Super Bowl, here’s a column I wrote in 1998, which was originally published in the San Jose Mercury News, the Oregonian, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Fresno Bee. It was later reprinted in the Tallahassee Democrat, the Wilmington News-Journal, and several other newspapers and regional magazines. Happy Super Bowl!
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© Mark W. Mayfield

Super Bowl Sunday is here, and I can hardly wait for the big game. I can see it now: As I’m enjoying pregame refreshments with several other rabid fans, a large wad of zesty nacho-cheese sauce suddenly drops from my chin onto another guy’s tortilla chip. Before I can say, “Hey, pal, there’s used dip on your chip,” he gives me a sly wink and pops it in his mouth. With utter astonishment, I realize that the guy is knowingly eating millions of my microscopic facial particles, but he doesn’t care! He doesn’t care because he’s there to watch the SUPER BOWL, baby! And the Super Bowl transcends disgusting eating habits. The Super Bowl is bigger than tortilla chips, bigger than nacho dip, even bigger than virulent chin germs that are easily transmitted through liquid cheese. He doesn’t care because I am his beloved compadre in the Universal Brotherhood of the Eternal Pigskin, and he loves me. He doesn’t care because . . . well, because he’s intoxicated. In fact, he’s consumed so much beer that his tongue behaves like a heavy mattress.

After swallowing the chip, he stumbles toward me and whispers, “Arl yul rally foo son furball?” (“Are you ready for some football?”). I nod and solemnly reply, “Guano spittle kelp” (“Yes”). We then spend the next several hours together in blissful harmony, sharing cold beer, warm chin-cheese and an undying love of football.

There’s only one problem with that glorious scenario: I don’t know much about the sport. In high school, when the other guys were trying out for the football team, I was experiencing the side effects of juvenile delinquency, including long hair, poor grades, a constant craving for Scooter Pies, and an uncontrollable urge to use the word “party” in every sentence. While my pals were listening to the coach extol the virtues of teamwork and perseverance, I was listening to the deeply profound lyrics of the Steve Miller Band (“I really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree…”). And while the team was learning complicated gridiron strategies, I was staring blankly at my lava lamp and trying to imagine the sound of one hand clapping.

But now I’m a responsible adult with a respectable job, a comfortable home, a fully functional spouse and even a couple of teenage kids who will be severely punished if I ever find them staring blankly at a lava lamp. I have everything a man could want–except a fanatical interest in football.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered how to experience the fun and excitement of watching the Super Bowl without completely understanding the game. So can you if you memorize a few simple exclamations.

When a player throws the football (that oblong leather thingy), say, “Wow! What a pass!”

When a player catches the football with his outstretched fingertips while diving through the air, say, “Wow! what a catch!”

When a player runs more than 20 yards with the football while eluding huge men who are apparently trying to decapitate him, say, “Wow! What a run!”

When a player runs more than 20 yards with the football after being decapitated, say, “Wow! Where’s his head?!”

When a player on your team “fumbles” the football into the hands of an opposing player, say, “Wow! What an idiot!”

When your team scores a touchdown, repeatedly yell, “YES!” while exchanging high-fives with guys who are rooting for the same team. (A touchdown occurs when the quarterback, running back, cornerback, lower back and broken back line up in the “shotgun formation” from the “neutral zone” and fail to “pick up the blitz” from an oncoming “field-goal attempt,” allowing the defensive referees to apply a variety of tackles, interceptions, sacks, and tight ends to the wide receiver, who then “pump fakes” and “scrambles from the pocket” into a “third-and-long situation,” where he laterals to the center, who quickly runs the “slant pattern” through “double coverage” into the “end zone,” where he immediately performs a complicated maneuver called the “two-point conversion.” )

Of course, you must also avoid making remarks that will instantly expose your ignorance of the game. A few examples:

“I think that ‘tackling’ stuff should be against the rules.”

“I love it when they do that ‘punt’ thing.”

“The players’ pants are very tight, aren’t they?” (This comment could cause major problems.)

You’re now prepared to experience one of life’s greatest pleasures: the Super Bowl, baby! And when it’s all over, you, too, will proudly proclaim, “Oola loopo feeboo!” (“I love football!”).

Mark Mayfield (mark.mayfield@comcast.net) will be asleep on the couch by halftime.

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