Those who know me know I became a hard-core baseball fan four years ago this June. Those who’ve known me a long time found that mildly surprising; for most of my life I had little or no interest in sports of any kind. But as I’ve explained before, baseball got under my skin at a time when I deeply needed something totally new in my life. And in getting to know it, I came to really love it.
The year or so prior, I’d gotten a bit into football. To some extent that was echos from the marriage; both my ex- and step-son were into football. Of course, like any kid who grew up here, I played sandlot football and baseball. Both sports were familiar, but I was never really a fan until my “baseball awakening” in 2010.
But while football didn’t “take” with me, I often do watch the Super Bowl.
There is the thing about Super Bowl commercials, of course. It’s always interesting to see the choices advertisers make given one of those hottest of TV commercial spots.
Last year I thought the Budweiser “farmer who loves his horse a bit too much” (but you know, not in a weird way) commercial was pretty silly. This year, I don’t even remember what they did, but I recall thinking they’d managed to be even lamer.
But then, what can you really say about a beer like Bud? That it doesn’t quite taste like horse piss? (Maybe having horses in the commercials actually isn’t a good idea.)
Mass-produced beer commercials seem to me the most generally pathetic. When you come down to it, there really isn’t anything that commends one brand of flavorless beer over another. As with cars and most smart phones, what’s really being sold is image. The products are almost entirely interchangeable.
It’s all about what you want to be seen drinking, driving or placed before you on every table at which you sit so you can be sure to never miss an electronic communication (or your life would, like, be, like, totally over, like). And, yeah, I have exactly as much disdain for that as you imagine I do (i.e. tons!).
In fact, I skipped the Super Bowl last year. No real reason; I just wasn’t paying that much attention, and it passed without notice. This year, the week before, I was out shopping and noticed the life-sized cardboard cutouts advertising the thing and realized it was probably happening the coming weekend.
I’d also heard some chatter about it on the MLB channel during an interview with a journalist covering the Seattle Mariners. They briefly touched on how the whole town had “Hawks Fever,” and I’m so clueless I just assumed it was basketball or hockey (two sports in which I have literally zero interest).
Later I realized Seattle has a football team, and that the fever was Super Bowl fever. It wasn’t until the game I learned that the Seahawks had the #1 defensive team and the Broncos had the #1 offensive team. Much talk there was about how that would go down (embarrassingly for one, delightfully for the other).
From what I’ve said so far, you might think I didn’t really have a dog in this hunt. Usually that’s the case. Often I root for the underdog if I know who that is. Or I root for the team with colors I like or from a city I’ve been to and enjoyed (which actually is all of them I’ve visited, but some were more fun than others). I usually don’t really care.
But if I told you the football-lovin’ ex- was from Colorado and totally into the Broncos, then you would realize why this time I was rooting — strongly, ardently — for the Seahawks. I wanted to see the Broncos crushed, humiliated, utterly defeated. (I’m human. Marriage crushed, humiliated and defeated me, so dot dot dot. Break my heart, and I’ll root against your sports teams forever!)
Apparently, after the last three years of being a Minnesota Twins fan (which has brought its own full share of humiliation and defeat), the Sports Gods smiled upon me. And the Seahawks and Seattle (a city without a championship title since 1979). They got a championship, and I got the lovely, delicious rout!
And, yes, I know exactly how small and petty and ugly and vindictive that makes me. C’est la vie. I haven’t enjoyed a football game so much in … ever.
So there’s a bit of (unapologetic) human context. The game in and of itself was interesting to me in contrast to baseball. I spent much of game “comparing and contrasting” (as our English teachers used to say) the two sports.
There is George Carlin’s great bit comparing the two; one of these days I want to post about that. There are also some more serious comparisons. One in particular was about the arc of the game, especially in a rout.
It’s very possible the Broncos lost the game on the very first play. That surprising mistake, which resulted in the other side scoring 12 seconds into the game, may have psychologically defected the Broncos right then and there. And to end the first half 22 points behind (with no score of their own) would just add more pressure.
And the second half starts with an 87-yard touchdown returning the kickoff! Ouch!!
For a while, it looked like a shutout, but the Broncos managed to score after the clock had run out in the third quarter. The fourth quarter was hardly worth even playing. How can any football team come back from a score of 36-8 in the 15 minutes of the last quarter?
And that’s one place baseball is very different (vastly superior, I would say, but that’s just me). No matter how far behind a team is in baseball, they can always still win the game. That last inning can always turn things around.
For example, speaking of Seattle, the Cleveland Indians rallied from a 12-run deficit to defeat the Seattle Mariners in August of 2001. (Think of that as coming back from being 12 touchdowns behind.) The Detroit Tigers came back from the same deficit in 1911, and the Oakland Athletics did the same in 1925. Twelve runs is the largest deficit ever beaten in baseball, but teams constantly come back from being much less behind.
In baseball, it’s really not over until it’s really over. In football, it seems it can be essentially over 12 seconds into the game.