Yesterday, as is my custom, I watched the Washington NFL football team lose a game it really needed to win. It is important to have traditions, rituals and familial habits that create a sense of comfort, of having a center in life, of having roots. When our team loses, as it does about 70 percent of the time, it reinforces our identity. This is what we do. This is who we are. We’re losers.
The other traditional element of my game-watching is that it is highly time-shifted. I’m one of those DVR guys. In my system, known as Might-Watch TV, a game with a 1 p.m. kickoff might not end until midnight. I watch the game in dribs and drabs (this season, mostly drabs) in between typing on the laptop and raking leaves and grazing in the kitchen and staring into space with that where-did-all-the-years-go look on my face that within my own home has become iconic.
The up side of this process is that I get to sample the game as a reward for achieving other things. The down side is that it’s hard to enforce a scoratorium. Like when my neighbor Angus wanders over, and I’m raking leaves, and he’s got that kind of smug, know-it-all, “Did you see the end of that game?” expression, and I have to announce, militantly, that I have a scoratorium going and he should just zip it. Picture me brandishing the rake. But Angus finds this habit to be contemptible, and accuses me of trying to remove myself from the normal fabric, the warp and woof, of our community. I’m like, who are you, the mayor?? Gonna write me a ticket for excessive scoratoria?
So I had to retreat inside. Later, I went to the meat market — true story — and was trying to pick out some smoked sausage to add to a dish that needed some extra leverage, and wouldn’t you know, some guy comes in and begins talking loudly — braying! — about the end of the game. I had to put my fingers in my ears and go nyah-nyah-nyah and rush out of the place, sausage-less.
I still had a lot of game to watch and clearly I couldn’t go out in public. This kind of thing will center you at home in the same way that an inmate is centered in a prison cell. The single trickiest part is that, in addition to being unable to go anywhere, or even stepping on one’s own lawn for fear of loquacious neighbors, you also can’t watch live television or get on the Internet. On any given Sunday the sports scores jump out at you from almost any and every website, including ones you wouldn’t expect, like marthastewart.com. You can’t shop for doilies in America without the website trying to tell you what happened in the Packers game.
There’s one huge upside to all this, which you’ve already perceived: Not only does one get to postpone, through time-shifting, the moment when the team loses the game (philosophically, epistemologically, if you haven’t seen the ending, has the team already “lost”?), you also spare yourself the worries of the world. Through careful time-shifting and promiscuous scoratoria I’ve managed this fall to be almost completely clueless about everything happening on planet Earth. I hear bits here and there — is there some kind of glitch with Obamacare? — but most of what’s important in the world remains nicely enfogged in the distance. I don’t know a thing. But I understand a lot of people are, you know, losing.