Viewing Football In Real Time
I like football. Don’t love it, but like it. Last year I dreamt that the Packers and Vikings played to a zero-zero tie in regulation, only to have the Packers win in overtime (unfortunately it wasn't prophetic), and I guess one could argue that dreaming about football signifies an unhealthy obsession, but it rarely comes to that. More often than not, I can’t even watch the games I want to watch. Personal and familial responsibilities aside, I don’t have TIVO or any other digital recording device for my TV. This kind of makes sense because I don’t have cable either, and each time a 747 flies over my house en route to O’Hare (about every 40 seconds) the picture on my 24 inch TV pixelates and briefly goes blank. A digital recording certainly wouldn’t mollify the nauseating effect of not knowing the outcome of a play-action pass, so what would be the point?
My neighbor, however, has a large flat-screen TV with all the fixings, and last night I joined him to watch the Packers-Bears game digitally (with humiliating results).
“This is great,” he said. “You can watch a three hour game in forty-five minutes.”
And we did. We skipped all the pregame talking heads, the Star-Spangled Banner, the replays, the commercials, the cheerleaders and the half-time show highlights. And you know what? Something was missing, and I’m not just talking about the Packers’ defense in the fourth quarter. Fast-forwarding sapped the game of all its majesty, however puffed up that might be. It saved some time, to be sure, but at what cost?
I admit it. I happen to like the pregame show that features guys who spend way, way too much time thinking about football. And I like hearing the National Anthem no matter how poorly it’s sung. I like the predictions and formulaic questions on the sidelines and equally formulaic answers. It all adds to the suspenseful buildup required to make the game something more than just your average TV-viewing experience.
During the game, I like hearing the guys in the booth overanalyze a challenge call and repeat the phrase “indisputable visual evidence” countless times (and then explain the meaning of the phrase for their mentally-challenged viewers). I like the commercials, which seem to signal a Pavlovian impulse to crack open another beer. And I like the replays so that I can watch Aaron Rodgers thread the needle one more time. And the cheerleaders? Well, I like them too.
I like it all.
Heck, in my young adult life, Monday Night Football was a full five hour event. But forty-five minutes? That’s the equivalent of fast-food: it sounds good beforehand, but it always fails to satisfy.
Everything else in life is rushed. Football viewing should be an exception. And so should Mike McCarthy’s predilection to waste a timeout by challenging an official ruling that has no chance of being overturned.