My parents were never into sports. During my childhood in Murmansk, I probably went to one game of soccer with my father, though the central stadium was a block away. My father barely watched sports; we’d watch occasional hockey finals games on TV, but that was about it. I was never athletic enough to play sports (ping-pong and chess don’t count). So probably for these reasons I never became a big fan of any sport. My partner at IMA, Michael Conn, is a college football fanatic. He went to CU Boulder and has been a CU Buffs season-ticket holder for 40 years – I suspect he has not missed a single home game.
Of course soccer is the true football. I am not trying to go Russian or European on you; but after all, in American football players barely touch the ball with their feet, while in “soccer” that is all they do. American “football” should really be called handball, but I guess that name was taken. I digress. Over the years, Mike has dragged me to a few CU Buffs games, and I have come to appreciate football more and more, especially watching a game in Boulder in the fall; it is simply magical.
After living in this great country for over 20 years I completely understand why soccer was never really popular in the United States. Three letters: ADD (attention deficit disorder). We (I am as American as apple pie in this) don’t have enough patience to watch a game continuously for 90 minutes, as very fit guys in shorts fool around with the ball and rarely score any points. No, we don’t have the patience for it; if there’s not excitement every 20 seconds we lose interest. I tried to watch a soccer game recently, and while I appreciated the elegance of passing the ball from one player to another, it wore on me after 20 minutes. American football perfectly fits the American lifestyle, too: the drama and excitement of a 20-second play, followed by nachos and beer while the teams regroup – we even get to take bathroom breaks during commercials.
Last year my family started a new tradition: my wife, kids, and I go to my father’s house to watch the Super Bowl. I don’t have TV service at home – I despise regular commercials and local news – so this is why we watch it at my father’s. This year we were also joined by my aunt, visiting from Russia, and my brother Alex and his family. Ironically, among the ten of us, I was the expert on football (this was probably my tenth game); while for almost everyone else it was either the first or second game they had ever watched.
We have rarely had so much fun together as we did watching this Super Bowl. Since the Broncos were not playing, I really didn’t care who won. (To be honest, until the game started I really didn’t know or care who was playing). So when I was asked who I wanted to win, I said “the guys in red jerseys.” Everyone else liked the color red better than black and blue, so everyone but my father was rooting for the ’49ers. My father took the other side just to make it interesting. So by the second half it was my father versus everyone else, even my aunt, who at 75 was watching her first football game, glued to the TV, rooting for the “guys in red” to win.
Traditions are important; through their recurrence they engrain our memories. Many years will pass, my kids will remember how our big family, all three generations, got together to watch the Super Bowl. They won’t remember who played or who won – in the long run those things don’t really matter. But they’ll remember how being together, laughing and cheering made them feel. That is all that matters!