Holy Day of Oblong Inflation

Stupor Bowl Sunday, An American Event

by Dandy Don Aikman

It's Sunday morning. Stupor Bowl Sunday. Only about nine more hours till kickoff.

I suppose I could watch some more of the pre-game hype, but it's been going on for two weeks. Did I really need to know that Denver's kicker's uncle was the producer of a local children's television show that served as the inspiration for Krusty the Klown on "The Simpsons"?

I made that up, but you get the idea.

It's a truism that the Game Itself is usually a dud. The sports pundits expect this year's match-up to be true to form. But that doesn't really matter, because Stupor Bowl Sunday is so much more than just a football game.

Back in my Drinking Daze, the best part of Stupor Bowl Sunday was the free food they doled out at the local watering holes as we all gathered together in front of a big-screen television specially leased for the occasion. We'd begin eating and drinking about four hours before kickoff. The shrewder saloon proprietors would pass out hefty helpings of extremely spicy and/or salty entreés-- cheese dogs, for example, with some sort of high-octane jalapeno cheese embedded in the wieners that required a minimum of one pitcher of beer per dog to put out the ensuing fire in the palate.

Then there was The Board. The Board is a device that enables you to bet and lose money on any possible combination and permutation of the score of the game, broken down by quarters and halves. I remember one guy who stood to win two hundred dollars in the waning moments of a game if the losing team, which had just scored a late and meaningless touchdown, kicked an extra point. Instead, they went for two. I hate to see grown men cry, but The Board seems to bring that out in even the manliest of male specimens.

Then there are the Televised Traditions ancillary to the Game Itself. The Unveiling of the Very Expensive Commercials can make the viewing experience worthwhile even if the Game Itself is a blowout. And it's the one part of Stupor Bowl Sunday that can keep the women interested. Your wife may not know why all the guys start mumbling when a coach calls for a running play on third-and-twelve, but she understands as well as anyone else the Vital Importance of the success or failure of a new ad campaign inaugurated in front of the largest viewing audience of the decade at the rate of millions of dollars per minute. Remember when Pepsi finally revealed its new slogan, after a season-long build-up? "Gotta Have It." We who were witnesses to this awful debacle will never forget it, although most of us probably can't remember who was playing that day (Note: It was Dallas and Buffalo, in case you're wondering.)

And then there's Bud Bowl, which has got to be the longest running shaggy-dog story in TV history. I really think Bud Bowl ought to be retired. It's lost its lustre. But I remember the very first Bud Bowl ad (San Francisco vs. Cincinnati). No one saw it coming, and suddenly there it was. It was hilarious. Guys were choking on their beer and falling on the floor laughing. When was the last time you had that reaction to a Bud Bowl spot? It's a shame they didn't quit while they were ahead.

The halftime show is the one thing about Stupor Bowl Sunday that really gets my goat. This isn't a haltime show-- it's a ludicrous pyrotechnic orgy of Unabashed Kitsch. I often think of the billions of people from foreign countries who are watching this on TV and saying to themselves, "Yes, this is America-- James Brown signing 'Shout' on top of a giant inflatable dinosaur with a thousand cleavage-enhanced chorus girls high-kicking in the background and monster trucks jumping over huge vats of flaming Jello." Is this why our ancestors hid behind hedges and played Turkey Shoot with the redcoats? Even at extremely high levels of intoxication, I always found it a bit difficult to give myself over entirely to the Spirit of the Halftime Show.

Oops, I'm sounding like a killjoy, aren't I? I must admit that since I gave up the suds, Stupor Bowl Sunday seems a lot less fun. But I feel a heck of a lot better on Post-Stupor Monday. Also, I can usually remember most of the second half of the game. Let's face it, if you've consumed a few Cheese Dogs From Hell and several quarts of beer even before the opening kickoff, and continue to imbibe and eat throughout the first half, it's got to be a mighty Awesome Contest to maintain your interest all the way to the Final Gun. I usually spent most of the second half in the john or sitting around feeling bloated and trying to decide whether or not to throw up to pay much attention to the Action on the Field.

There's one thing that hasn't changed with me, however. I still get blue the day after the game. It must be a little bit like what women feel during post-partum depression. The sudden realization that football season is over hits me like a ton of bricks. Don't talk to me about the Pro Bowl or I'll punch your lights out. The Pro Bowl is an exhibition game. The only reason anyone bothers with it is to see if Joe Blow can win a million dollars at halftime by kicking a 35-yard field goal. Any game that has to resort to that sort of lame gimmickry to generate interest in it speaks for itself. Notice that the Pro Bowl is played in Hawaii-- that's the only way they can entice the players to show up for it.

Gad, the game is still seven hours away and I'm already getting bummed anticipating the Aftermath.


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