Today's the big day, Super Sunday. The one we wait all year for. The modern American Thanksgiving. Gather round the TV with our chips and dips and PAR-TAY! What could be more intense than this? What could distract you from the Super Bowl?
You got your blimps for those panoramic aerial shots. Whoops, scratch the blimps this year; they're banned to minimize the Black Sunday dynamite-and-dart-bomb scenario. But you got your "New York State of Mind" theme with the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. Okay, the Giants moved to the New Jersey suburbs 15 years ago, and Buffalo's fans live in eastern Ohio, southern Canada and northwestern Pennsylvania.
But it's still the big one, isn't it?
Well, maybe "the big one" isn't the most appropriate phrase now.
How about the Ultimate Game? That's what the NFL always calls it. (Although some years ago running back Duane Thomas asked, "If it's the ultimate game, how come they play it every year?" and, really, what can you say to that?) But if the Super Bowl isn't the ultimate game, what is? The Bud Bowl? Our soldiers in Saudi Arabia had a touch football game they called the "Scud Bowl." Is that the ultimate game? Or is it a sidelight to the Ultimate Game?
Forgive me, I really didn't want war to intrude on Super Sunday. I'd hoped to watch the Super Bowl as a diversion to war. God knows, lately it's been impossible to relax watching anything that hasn't come from Erol's. You watch live TV, and every two seconds some war logo flashes on, and they cut to Linda Scherzer in Israel with her gas mask on, or Arthur "This Is Not a Drill" Kent in Saudi Arabia, and your spine gets cold, and you're paralyzed with terror that a Scud will come roaring in and blow him off the roof of the Hilton like a paper cup.
But let's forget that for one day.
Who do you like in the game?
I like the Bills' air strike capability with Jim Kelly unloading the bomb. I also like the Giants' ground attack; O.J. Anderson is a tank out there. And the Giants defense is dug in. Nobody blitzes like Lawrence Taylor.
In terms of coaching, I give the edge to Colin Powell. He runs that team like a field general. The other day at the press briefing he talked about his "game plan," and ... I'm sorry. Did I say coaching? I get confused. Of course, Colin Powell is a general, though he did use the term "game plan." It seems that everybody with a ribbon on his chest is compelled to describe conflict in terms of down-and-distance. For a long time, football and war have shared a vocabulary; Richard Nixon code-named the 1972 bombing of North Vietnam and mining of Haiphong Harbor "Operation Linebacker." It's probably just my imagination that ran wild when I saw Gen. Powell in front of that map and pointing to the circles he'd drawn around the Iraqi military fortifications, and I thought of John Madden.
There's no reason the war should intrude so heavily on our normal life. The commander in chief said the NFL should play on. Let the Super Bowl divert us from the fight. And that's what the NFL has in mind, sort of, except for those 75,000 American flags they ordered for the fans, and the jet-fighter flyovers they've scheduled, and the Desert Storm T-shirts that Logo 7, an NFL official licensee, handed out to the players, and that special patriotic red, white and blue costume Mickey Mouse will wear at half time -- all of which are true facts.
I'm sure Bush, Cheney, Powell and the others will be watching the Super Bowl like all loyal Americans. They know war is separate from football, even if both seek the acquisition of territory over land and through the air. They won't confuse the two. They don't have any trouble distinguishing the Patriot missile from the New England Patriots -- because one is the best defense we have, and the other couldn't stop the enemy's bombs all season long. They know it's Buffalo using the no-huddle, and that Iraq relies on the mobile run-and-shoot.
War and football. Football and war. The lines blur. If the Giants give up too many touchdowns, will their coach shoot his defensive coordinator? Out on the field, is that the head linesman bending down to pick up his flag, or is it Bernard Shaw crawling on the hotel floor to duck under the blasts? When they go to the instant-replay official, is he watching for both feet in bounds, or is he getting reverse angle of some smart Nintendo bomb screaming through an open doorway in Baghdad? When Charles Jaco asks a blushing Patriot crew how it feels to knock down a Scud, is that really so much different from Brent Musburger asking the Giants free safety how it feels to knock down Jim Kelly's long bomb? If the Super Bowl goes into overtime, will anyone dare call it "sudden death?"
It's said that the televising of the Super Bowl produces the largest number of people simultaneously sharing the same event in the history of the world. If they cut in with another Scud attack, then war will be brought into more living rooms than ever before. War piggybacks on football. And eerily, the questions are the same, as we've been relentlessly seeing for more than a week now. This is all we want to know: Who's winning? And how much time is left in the game?