When it comes to football, I don’t see the attraction

True confession! During the Super Bowl, I did the New York Times crossword puzzle. I have a problem. I understand baseball and basketball, even soccer and ice hockey. But when it comes to football, I’m blocked.

Maybe it’s because my largely Jewish high school in Queens did not have a football team. The mothers would never have allowed it. Maybe it’s because of a bad experience I had during a blind date at age 17. We were at a Columbia-Penn game in New York and I hadn’t eaten all day. Feigning sophistication, I ordered a scotch and soda at the field house after the game. As I wobbled onto the street, I freaked out as cobblestones started moving in all directions. That may account for my bad associations with football.

More likely, it’s that I never really grasped the concepts behind the game. My first husband tried to explain them to me. He even bought me a book, Elaine Tarkenton’s “A Wife’s Guide to Pro Football.” I read it. Honestly, I tried. I learned there were two different teams on each side: an offensive team and a defensive team. I understood touchdowns and the field goals. But why did everybody cheer when the team did nothing more than gain 10 yards? I mean, it’s not like a home run.

Watching the game, my ex would say, “Did you see that great play?” But all I saw was a cadre of oversized men in dirty outfits falling on top of one another. I felt a little like James Thurber looking through a microscope, wondering why he saw nothing but milk.

When Thurber was a student at Ohio State, he could only see out of one eye. Later, he became completely blind. There’s nothing wrong with my vision that a pair of progressive lenses can’t fix. Nonetheless, I’m football blind.

Here’s what I don’t understand: What I learned from the “Wife’s Guide” is that a football game is divided into four quarters, each of them 15 minutes. In the middle, there’s a halftime show. OK, so if you allow 15 minutes or so for a band to march in formation around the field, why does a football game eat up an entire afternoon? Is it because after every 30-second play, there’s another break so manufacturers of erectile dysfunction remedies can plug their products and beer companies can compete over which label attracts the sexiest women?

When the game is in its final 10 or 15 minutes — or even five minutes — don’t assume it soon will be safe to call everybody to the dinner table. That’s just football time, which does not correspond to real time. Not by a long shot.

Well, at age 72, I realize I won’t accomplish everything on my lifelong “must do” list. I may never learn Latin. I’m unlikely to climb Everest. And I’m certainly not planning to audition for “American Idol.” I believe Jewish grandmas fall outside the desired demographic.

But there is much I still hope to accomplish: mastering Torah Hebrew, compiling my favorite recipes for my children, writing fiction, and visiting India, the Greek isles and Istanbul. I’m not lazy. I finally finished “Ulysses” and all the volumes in “The Forsyte Saga.”

I didn’t finish a microeconomics course, for a number of reasons, but I mastered the most important lesson: opportunity costs. Or put another way, every choice involves giving up something else. Our Yiddish-speaking forebears knew nothing about Friedrich von Wieser’s economic theories, but they understood the principle all too well: “You can’t dance at two weddings with one tuchus.”

Since I last checked, I still have just one. So if I choose to spend an entire Sunday afternoon plodding through the New York Times crossword puzzle, I realize I am giving up valuable time possibly better spent pulling weeds or going to the gym. But at least I’m doing something to delay the inevitable loss of brain cells.

I can’t say the same about those guys on the football field. Should I be cheering when they’re getting concussions and broken bones? Oy! Is it any wonder that this Jewish grandma chooses to punt?


Janet Silver Ghent
Janet Silver Ghent

Janet Silver Ghent, a retired senior editor at J., is writing a memoir on her late-life romance. She lives in Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected].