Football’s strange allure captures a reluctant fan

I commute to work with a psychiatrist. She’s become a good friend, and during our half-hour drive, we discuss our personal lives, the weather, and occasionally who should be president. She’s a physician, so when discussing medical problems, we use the correct names for things.

“Well,” she’ll say, “some anti-depressants can delay ejaculation and most of my male patients tell me their wives love that side effect.” I nod, thinking that may have been the first time I’ve ever heard a woman in her 60s say the word “ejaculation.”

Since we speak frankly, it wasn’t shocking that she told me about the time she had to take a male hormone for six months to cure a certain female problem.

“You wouldn’t believe the effect it had on me,” she said. “For one thing, I played the best racquetball of my life. I could even beat men without a handicap.”

“Huh,” I said, imagining her winning games against beefy male players.

“Oh, but the smell, that was terrible! I would sweat all day long, and I smelled – well, like a man.”

Not only did she smell like a man, she acted like a man. “I found myself in the grocery store looking at, well, ogling the rear-ends of men in the checkout aisle. I couldn’t believe it. So I went home and asked my husband, ‘Is that what it’s like for a man? Are you constantly distracted by women?’ and he said, ‘Yes. Pretty much. You just learn to deal with it.”

I added this to the list titled, “Things I find unattractive about men.” At the top of this list used to be “football.” In fact, when we started dating I told my husband that I wouldn’t watch football with him, ever, and that I found men who sat around all day on Sundays watching football very unattractive. I really couldn’t understand why men like watching sports more than playing sports. Watching football seemed particularly boring — not as boring as watching golf or bowling, but boring enough to read a book during the game.

Part of the reason I thought football was dull was because the only football game I watched all year was the Super Bowl. I would later realize that the Super Bowl is often the most disappointing game of the season. Usually one team chokes and is beaten so badly it’s embarrassing.

When I was a kid, I watched the Super Bowl strictly for the half-time show. When I was older I realized that most of the entertainers are lip-synching, and my interest turned to Super Bowl commercials. This interest faded after I watched Budweiser’s “Wassup!” ad once too often.

For a few years, I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. One of my feminist friends told me I should boycott the game because the highest rates of domestic violence occur on Super Bowl Sunday.

I surmised that men beat up their wives because their team lost, and I didn’t want to support something that would spawn that kind of evil. Turns out that studies show a man’s testosterone level goes up when his team is winning and down when his team is losing. So it’s the winning team’s male fans you have to watch out for, not that it makes it any better.

Luckily, my husband is non-violent, but I do have to put up with the pacing, nervous twitching, and occasional acrobatic movements when his team is playing. I didn’t even know he was a football fan until we were in a committed relationship. Now we spend most Sunday afternoons in a smoky bar because we can’t get the Patriots’ games on regular TV.

My conversion from shunning football to becoming a loyal fan is hard to explain. What probably brought me around was picking a team. When you grow up in a state without a pro-football team it’s hard to feel like it really matters. But watching my husband act as if his life depended on the game’s outcome has at least made it matter to a loved one.

Admittedly, I don’t really know what a blitz is, and I just figured out the difference between a safety and an interception in the end zone, but I know enough to tell when my team is looking good. Maybe I need to take a male hormone to understand the plays, but I’m looking forward to this year’s Super Bowl. Now that I’m a fan, I too will pace, shout a random “Yes!” and raise my fist when my team wins. All I have to say is, Go, Pats!

Janelle Holden, a former resident of Montezuma County, writes from Livingston, Montana.

From February 2004, janelle holden.