Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Super Bowl

When we arrived at Just Kicking at 1:30 AM for the highlights from the previous Patriots’ Super Bowl, we were the only group in the bar. We claimed a group of couches directly in front of the large screen projector and ordered a few beers (Red Bull equivalent had previously been consumed in the parking lot). Shortly before kick-off we were joined by another group of about six Americans. The bartender settled in for a long night with his own small television on which he watched alternately skiing and nudie pictures flashed in stills on the screen (different channels, I’m assuming).

No Super Bowl commercials for us. Instead ESPN International showed the same commercials they’ve been showing ever since we started watching American football games in the middle of the night three months ago—“In Their Words,” which features sound bites from aging world sports celebrities either giving advice to aspiring athletes or reminiscing about the glory days (they only have about a dozen in rotation and ESPN seems to favor some over others); an NBA/ESPN commercial featuring Celtics players in an RV watching Hoosiers; and a montage of great soccer goals spanning the last thirty years. Rewind, repeat.

By the end of the game we were too forlorn, too tired, too at loose ends with the world—surely the moon had drifted off course or the sun was about to implode, how else could the Patriots have lost?—to do more than nod our heads at our companions in farewell and pile into the dark Escudo, alone in the empty parking lot before sunrise.

When your team loses a big game, you take some comfort in collective misery. A whole sports nation in mourning together. Each person’s tragedy unique, yes, but softened by a public’s common response. The sound muted, the colors subdued, life on pause. On our drive home we passed people on the street in their nice clothes, walking along the quiet roadsides in the early morning darkness. “They’re going to work,” J said. And I thought, how lucky they are not to feel this way AND damn them for not understanding. There were no muted sounds, no dimming of the brightness, no softening of the colors.

It dawned on me, not for the first time, that this was all our fault. If only we hadn’t been in Uganda, the Patriots would have won. The same way that if we hadn’t been in Uganda the Red Sox would have lost the World Series. Because I wanted to be there for the Red Sox win. Because I wanted to be home for the Patriots loss. The point is, when you’re a sports fan living far removed from your team, you can’t win.

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