I was seventeen the first time I watched the Super Bowl all the way through.
I’m sure it was on other years, but I could never be bothered to watch. I’d float in for the halftime show or a few commercials. The game itself felt endless, piles of people crawling across the field, lacking the precision of baseball, the speed of basketball, or the precise single-mindedness of soccer. Had I been alive during the “Heidi Bowl” of 1968, I would have cheered when the game flickered off in overtime, giving way to an actual story, for once.
But when I was a senior in high school, the New England Patriots were playing the St. Louis Rams in a pre-Katrina Superdome, with a pre-everything, second-season Tom Brady. I’d recently decided that Gordon College, just outside of Boston, held the key to my future. With this destiny in mind, I decided to watch the Super Bowl. If I was going to be a New Englander, I best start cheering for my team.
And cheer I did. I remember little of the actual game now. (Honestly, if I remembered any specific plays it would be a miracle. Even this summer’s glorious final World Cup match has become a faint and distant memory.) U2 performed the halftime show, as the names of those killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks–just five months prior–scrolled on a giant screen behind them. The Patriots won, possibly in overtime.
When I came to Ballard High School the next day, where I was a copy editor for our school newspaper, I proofread the final draft of that month’s paper, and discovered a hole in the Sports section.
“Someone, write an article on the Super Bowl,” the Editor-in-Chief commanded. No response. “Didn’t anyone watch it?” Apathetic shrugs all around.
“I watched it,” I replied, breaking the silence as skeptical classmates turned to look at me.
“Really?” He raised his eyebrows, then shrugged. “OK, fine. Kristi, you write it.”
It was my first and last sports article, 200 words I’m still proud of writing. I think it is cut out somewhere, buried in a box in my parents’ garage. The first Super Bowl I cared about.
Of course, life didn’t turn out that way. A week later I visited Gordon, and a few months later I decided to stay in Seattle, picking my parents’ alma mater, Seattle Pacific University, for mostly financial reasons. I never became a Patriots fan, except in “lesser of two evils” scenarios.
I did watch more Super Bowls, though. I watched in 2005, when the Seahawks went to their first championship ever, losing to the Steelers under referee-related circumstances that my Ingraham ninth-graders wailed about loudly the next morning. After mocking my colleagues and students here in Germany for three years for the nonsense of staying up all night on a Sunday, last February I set my alarm for midnight and watched (most of) Seattle’s victory over Denver.
I still don’t love football, still find it agonizingly slow at times. I still choose sleep over watching most nights, even when, like during the NFC Championship, that proves to be a terrible decision. But a few magical times a year, football connects me with home, with family and friends, a giant cause that we all care about together. It’s just a game, of course, hardly the most critical cause in the world, but it’s something, a link of excitement to a city full of people I love.
With just about everyone in Seattle, I’ll be watching the Super Bowl again this year. And this time, I won’t be rooting for the Patriots.