Why is the football shaped like that?” asked my dear wife at the Super Bowl kickoff. Laughter erupted.
Before anyone answered, cheers exploded, screaming, jumping, high fives and bumps! Seattle scored a safety on first play! It was magnetic, electrifying! My wife, the newbie, was jumping, yelling, screaming: “Touchdown, touchdown!”
“That was a safety, not a touchdown.”
“What?” she asked. “What’s that? That’s only worth two points? Who made that rule up?”
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More raucus laughter, but the lifetime experts were stumped.
We were at my buddy’s place. Reintroducing herself to people she’d known for years, she said, “I’m just a newbie fair-weather Seahawks fan.”
In fact, this newbie fan and I were both born BS-1 (Before Super Bowl I). She had never watched a complete football game.
“All newbie fair-weather fans are welcome to join the 12th Man,” replied a gruff fan-atic, who’d rooted for the Seahawks since franchise inception.
“Well, I’m a newbie 12th Woman.”
“Fine. You’re in. Sit down and watch.”
This was serious 12th Man turf. My buddies and I celebrated here when the tearfully defunct Super Sonics won the 1979 NBA Championship. We suffered the “thrill of victory and agony of defeat” when the Mariners won 116 games in 2001, matching the Chicago Cubs’ 1906 record but striking out on reaching the World Series.
The Steelers. Don’t go there. This year, the Hawks were due! Point Barrow to Lihui, Medford to Moab, the whole non-California, non-Arizona West of the Continental Divide-North Pacific to the Marshall Islands Seahawk Realm was due to win Super Bowl XLVIII.
A newbie fan in a welcoming but grizzled, hungry, tense 12th-Man crowd could be trouble. A field goal put the Hawks up 5-0. Despite cheers, the 12th Man worried: no touchdown. Manning might score on the next drive.
“Why can’t he hold?” she asked. “What’s that yellow line for? Second down? What’s illegal about movement?”
Laughter, halting answers between plays, irritation.
“No questions in the red zone. You should have asked questions in the preseason.”
“Hey. I’m only learning in Super Bowls. Stop being 13th Man and answer.”
Tempers frothing, they squared off. The 13th Man had a weight advantage, but the newbie knows karate. I’m not kidding: she does. Smith’s interception erased all dissension. Wild cheering! The crowd calmed.
“Please, no questions in the red zone.”
“That’s the end zone?”
“No! I’ll explain later, watch.”
Seattle scored, forced turnovers and punts. The game became a joyous rout. Tension melted, people ate, drank, went to the bathroom. Spontaneous laughter answered each new question. The first 12th Man who could stop laughing gave an answer to 12th Woman. Answers ranged between accurate and inaccurate. With the game’s outcome sealed, 12th Man was bathing in the warm beautiful glory of Super Bowl victory heaven. Even uncomfortable questions could hardly ruffle Cloud Nine.
“How much did that jersey cost?”
“$150. It has official logos, see.”
“$150 for a football shirt? Since when do you care about logos?”
“That’s why I don’t tuck it in.”
“I feel kinda sorry for the Broncos.”
“They won two Super Bowls. It’s 36-0, skunking them earns the Hawks a Super Bowl record.”
“That’s so greedy. Share the score a little bit.”
“This is football, not kindergarten.”
The Seahawks won. If the game lacked challenge, the questions did not. As player interviews drawled on, 13th Man growled, “You’re not coming to next season’s games are you?”
“Only Super Bowl whatever-the-next-number-is. This was fun.”
Eighteen hours later, the newbie was now a strongly opinionated Monday morning analyst.
“The crowd was loud; that’s why we got a safety. Sherman is really nice. That ‘thug’ thing was East-Coast press hype. Safeties should be four points. Russell Wilson deserves more credit; he’s the best quarterback.”
“You’ve only seen two quarterbacks play.”
“He won the Super Bowl, didn’t he?”
I think the newbie fan would add more excitement – and unquestionably more novel questions – than adding another player, coach or sportscaster to the post-game TV reviews.
Why is the football shaped like that?
David Batker is executive director of Tacoma-based Earth Economics, and author of “What’s the Economy for Anyway? Why It’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness.”