Thursday, January 05, 2006


I watched the Rose Bowl last night the same way I watch any TV show – in ten to twelve minute segments separated by half hour breaks.

I’ve always preferred college football over professional, but I can’t claim to be much of a football fan at all. Football was something to sit down and watch with Pops and pretend that counted as having some sort of relationship with him. You could never go to a live game with him. A former football player, he sometimes forgot himself, stood up, and acted out the hits, grunting a bit as if he were feeling each one. It was bad enough to live through it at home. Being with him while strangers could see him was too humiliating to bear. It wasn’t as if he ever acknowledged that we watched with him, nor did he try to explain the game, help us appreciate it, or even share his admiration for plays. Football was his own little world. The most we were allowed into it was sit on the sidelines and watch him watching the game.

I am a big fan of soccer, maybe because I played the sport (poorly) and can appreciate footwork I tried to copy but tripped over and set plays coming together in ways I could never envision while my team was on the pitch. If anything, I enjoy the differences between American football and the sport the rest of the world more correctly calls football, considering that they are derived from the same game.

In soccer, a great tackle is all ball, no player. In American football, the ball is the least of the concerns. It’s all player. American football is nothing but a series of set plays. Soccer is a perpetual motion that develops (hopefully) into set plays.

And, of course, there are the players. With the exception of Lacrosse, no sport offers as much eye candy as soccer.

What I did see of the Rose Bowl last night was my favorite kind of football. Even someone with my limited appreciation of the sport could see that there was so much more to the game than simply brute strength pushing against raw muscle. (Hmmm, may have to rethink that eye candy comment.) Even I could see the strategy of going without a huddle and managing the clock and for god’s sake, USC, didn’t you have someone upstairs alerting you through your headphones to take a time out and get that touchdown reviewed? Lord knows every USC fan watching the game was screaming it loud enough from the bars in Santa Monica that you should have been able to hear it in Pasadena.


Anyway, from what I saw of it, it was a good game. Every time I wandered back into the TV room, the lead changed. Kicks were good, kicks were bad. Rugby type lateral passes were sometimes a horrible idea, and sometimes quite brilliant. (A little late maybe, but hey, the officials let it go, so I should too.) I wondered if Pops were watching. I knew he was probably on his feet, channeling the defensive line. I even wondered if he was rooting for Texas or USC, or if, like me, he was simply enjoying the game for the beauty of sports.

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