Super Bowl Sunday is the one day of the year when football becomes a cultural event, and if you think a touchdown only comes at the end of a flight or a nickel package is something sold in an alley, you need a plan.
When otherwise normal people are screaming themselves hoarse and lunging around the living room, you must appear to know your football or lose access to the snacks. Most of all, you need to have a dog in Sunday's fight.
There are easy ways to pass yourself off as knowledgeable amid the beer and wing inhalers. You might at any time cluck your tongue, shake your head and utter the phrase "field position." If the room is quiet and the gang moves closer to the TV to watch a replay, wag your finger and say "Remember guys, it has to be conclusive." Finally, and this always works, praise a player's "tremendous athleticism."
Once you've demonstrated your expertise, someone is going to ask you who you are rooting for. You will tell them you're pulling for the Packers. And here's why:
- Both teams have rich football histories that date back to when players wore helmets that were basically leather beanies with chinstraps. But Pittsburgh is the Mr. Creosote of Super Bowls. This is their eighth appearance, and if they won, it would be for the seventh time. That's just gross. At this point, cheering for the Steelers is like cheering for the Harlem Globetrotters to beat the Washington Generals.
- Pittsburgh isn't exactly Paris, but it has a lot more going on than football. Green Bay, on the other hand, has a population of just over 100,000. They don't have baseball or basketball. Summer lasts approximately 12 minutes. They LOVE their Packers, who are one of the very few publicly traded sports teams. Fans buy shares just to own a piece of the team. The value never goes up, it won't help you get tickets and they won't listen to you if you want to complain about the coach. Still, fans treat shares like Berkshire Hathaway stock. That's admirable and sweet.
- Pittsburgh's quarterback is Ben Roethlisberger. Green Bay's is Aaron Rodgers. Roethlisberger is a "Don't you know who I am?" type heel who was suspended for the first five games of the season for acting like a drunken lout and embarrassing the league. NFL players in the league pretty much despise him, according to the commissioner.
Rodgers, on the other hand, is a goody-good. He waited patiently behind Brett Favre for three years before he got the chance to start and then quietly became a superstar. He recently found out a childhood friend who had been working as a substitute teacher just got her own class back in their hometown of Chico, Calif., and sent her a box of Packers gear to decorate the room. If you run into him while stepping over a puddle, he will gladly lay down his jersey.
Knowing enough to fit in with the die-hards and elbow your way to the pizza is the goal here. No one is telling you to wear one of those foam cheese wedge hats or to get out the green and yellow facepaint. Try not to damage your television if the Packers lose. Do not set cars on fire or engage in looting if Green Bay wins.
Leave that stuff to the real fans.