What is the leading cause of heart attacks this time of year? Shoveling snow? No. Holiday stress? Not even close. It’s the New York Football Giants. They still refer to the team that way so that they don’t pack the station wagon full of baseball bats and drive 3,000 miles by mistake.
Every week I look forward to a relaxing Sunday where I put on my bathrobe and slippers, light my pipe, a cup of coffee next to me, and my wife and I do the Times crossword puzzle while we check in on the football game. This fantasy doesn’t even last through the National Anthem before I start to go nuts. This time it was Steven Tyler. He actually looked drunk as he yakked his way through the thing. It was almost as if the song was an antibody that his body was trying to reject. Afterwards there was a military flyover where they tried to drop a bomb on him and strafe him with a 50 caliber machine-gun, but both missed. I just know he will be man enough to skulk back to American Idol and critique his own performance.
Usually it’s one of those patriotic, silky-throated croon-muffins who wants nothing better than to honor America by trying to draw as much attention as possible to herself, taking that BORING old song and JAZZING IT UP! Does this flag make me look fat??? Who are all those dudes with khaki uniforms that clash with my shoes???
It all started with Whitney Houston when she sang the Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl in 1991. Every songstress, warble-ette and Idol-aire has been trying to top it ever since, and now the pre-game performance sounds like it is sung while falling down a flight of stairs. Not one note is ever left to suffer by itself without a trill or a glissade. And if you make it to the Land of the Free be prepared for that obligatory adventure where she tries to hit the octave. And all this is possible whether the twilight is gleaming or streaming, whether the night is perilous or the fight is perilous- LOOK: who the hell cares as long as I hit that octave, smile brightly and look HOT!
I’m spent by the time they flip the coin. I scan the stands for a familiar face. Where is the guy who always sat behind us when Phil used to have his great seats? Slightly obnoxious, often funny and usually drunk by the 3rd quarter and asleep by the 4th, all these guys have been replaced by the one-percenters, people who represent the real class inequalities in America. I can’t picture the Giants being effectively rooted on by people who say “kew-pon,” and use words like “vis-à-vis,” and spell “Shiitake” mushroom with two "i”s. Now you have to have a “seat license” to be a Giant fan. Even if I could afford the thousands of dollars, would I pass the parallel parking test?
I do a quick inventory of the crowd, and I still don't see anybody I know. Instead, I see about 70,000 actors that are currently on Fox sitcoms that will be cancelled soon, brushing up on their football jargon so they can just happen to be ready when someone comes by to interview them.
The game begins and all the pre-game blather and hoopla fade into the background. I can tell how the first series will go: Give to Bradshaw for three, and he had to fight for every one of them. Pass to Manningham, incomplete: he broke the wrong way. 3rd and long, Manning from the shotgun, pressure coming. They grab his jersey, flush him out of the pocket but there’s a linebacker there and Manning makes that face like he just stepped on an octopus, and throws the ball away just before he hits the ground in a heap. Does this sound familiar? Sometimes there is a completion on second down, but always negated by a holding penalty. Already my cats and dog are under the table, because I am throwing all the remote controls at the TV set. I will eventually have to retrieve them, because each one of them performs one function that the others do not.
My pulse is racing, and it is ahead at the moment. The announcers go on about the weather- it's raining, and traction is going to be at a premium. The running game will surely be ineffective. Hopefully the receivers will not have to run at all during the game, or we will have to rely on 80-yard field goals to win the game. The players are wearing a muff with a "Sham-Wow type product" in it to dry their hands. They ordered 11 of them and got 11 FREE (paying only shipping and processing).
The 49ers score early in the first quarter, and already I have pulled most of my hair out, luckily in places you can't readily see. The receiver crosses the end zone and climbs up onto the TV camera stand and poses like Geronimo, receiving a penalty for Unnecessary Douchiness. At least he didn't slither around trying to dance. If you find yourself unable to keep from dancing for any reason, and there are no women around, only a lot of dudes in uniforms, it's a lot like I picture prison to be.
I can tell that this is going to be a long game, one of those where the final two minutes lasts an hour. I settle onto the couch with my pipe and try to relax. I don't usually smoke a pipe, and it smells funny. I wonder whether PVC was a good choice....
Incidentally, the G-men ended up winning the game, they’re going to the Super Bowl, and I am pretty damn proud of them. I certainly wouldn't call them the "G-men;" that's what Russ Salzberg called them. "G-men" sounds like a part on a woman that I doubt Russ Salzberg could find without stopping to ask directions. By the way, if you can't find one of those parts yourself just do what I do and imply that SHE is the one who doesn't know where it is.