So how about the football, huh? Bit of a mixed bag this past Sunday with the first round of playoffs results, and my wife was understandably bummed when the Steelers’ season came to an unexpectedly quick end. Well, maybe not entirely unexpected; the Steelers are a great team but by the time wildcard weekend rolled around they had a ton of starters on injured reserve (and Big Ben so banged up you could make the argument that maybe he shouldn’t have gotten the start - I’m not making it, mind you, I’m just saying you could) and they had to play on the road … I’m not offering excuses, nor was my wife, I’m just … saying, is all?
The good news is that Pittsburgh’s playoffs departure forestalls for yet another year the possibility of marriage-testing showdown in the Super Bowl. The other good news of course is that the Giants won, and my wife very sweetly has committed to jumping on the NY bandwagon for as long as it keeps rolling. That may not be very long, of course, since the G-Men have to play in Green Bay this weekend. There are some bright spots to note: the Giants won their last two regular season games (they pretty much had to in order to get to the playoffs) and their victory over Atlanta was totally solid (no crazy new playoffs overtime rules, ahem ahem) and even over the course of those sixty minutes hosting the Falcons, every aspect of the Giants’ play only got stronger as the game went along. So tons of momentum, in other words! And all that the Packers have going for them are a 15-and-1 regular season record, a bye week’s worth of rest, home field advantage, and the fact that they are the reigning world champs. Sounds like a good match-up to me.
There was a stretch there during the regular season when I was rooting for the Packers to become the next team to have a perfect season all the way through the Super Bowl, but of course that was also a stretch during which the Giants were kind of foundering and I wasn’t sure they’d be playing in the post-season at all. Now I admit I am somewhat relieved that the Packers already lost one game, so that I don’t feel any lingering conflict of interest about the Giants potentially spoiling something historic. If the Giants continue underdogging their way toward the Super Bowl I will of course be excited, but if they falter along the way I will console myself with the fact that it is exceedingly difficult to enjoy the Super Bowl in and of itself – the socializing with friends over junk food and beer, the critical evaluation of million-dollar commercials, the anticipation of movie trailers, the snarking over the halftime show, the appreciation for a good close game with lots of lead changes and crazy plays on both sides of the ball, all of it – when your team is playing and you just want them to WIN, COME ON. That’s my silver lining, being able to look forward to a Super Bowl party as just a party, not a crucible of agony and/or ecstasy.
But let’s not jump the gun, I haven’t given up on the Giants yet, despite the long odds, and I’m looking forward to this weekend. My viewing experience last weekend was interesting, in that the Giants’ game started right about when the little guy was sequestered in his room for Quiet Time, and also when my wife had gone out to do some grocery shopping. That left me and the little girl alone together, sharing the couch in the den as I kept one eye on the tv and one eye on my daughter. She was in a very good mood and perfectly content with the amount of tickling and knee-bouncing and whatnot I offered her. I tried to return the favor by not scaring her into bursting into tears, but it wasn’t easy. I’m naturally given to extraordinarily high-decibel outbursts related to the aforementioned agony and ecstasy, and there was plenty of cause for both frustration and elation as the game in the Meadowlands went down. But every angry shout of protest became a swallowed growl instead, and every in-your-face war whoop became a gentle “Yay!” and a smile and a noiseless clapping of the hands, a gesture the little girl has just recently learned to imitate. So we sat together and delicately clapped our hands and had a grand time. So I look forward to all of that again this Sunday, too.