Maybe I should start off with the following anecdote that I think explains a lot about the topic at hand: My friend Michael was interviewing for a job with a local outfit – as is typical here, a start-up. This company has come up with some kind of metering device that, if I understand it correctly (no sure thing!), detects the amount of water in sewer pipes. For our purposes, it doesn‘t matter if you or I understand it exactly. The point is that they are trying to penetrate the American market big time, and that’s where my friend comes in. This was one of the few times when an Israeli company wouldn’t prefer to hire some hot-shot kid right out of the I.D.F., as opposed to Michael, even though he has ten times the knowledge and experience as the other guy. If nothing else, the men running the company figured out real quick that they needed someone who could chew the fat with the middle-age American engineers and officials who would be deciding whether to purchase a few of these meters on a trial basis. And that someone definitely was not going to be some twenty-two year old Israeli with passable English. If they wanted to talk to Americans, they’d better find an American.
Michael is an American from the mid-west. Michael is a 100%, genuine, certified, official good ol’ boy, complete with an impressive waist line and accent, the exact person you’d want to connect with similar folks back in Duluth or Des Moines. The job interviews were going well, and then an important question: “Do you watch the Super Bowl?” “Sure.”
Whether that was the deciding factor or not in getting him the job, I don’t know and Michael himself isn’t sure, but it certainly helped clinch the deal. If you’re going to be trying to sell something to almost any middle-age American male during the end of January or most of February, you’d better be able to talk Super Bowl-ese: you’d better know who is/was playing; you’d better know the difference between a field goal and field position. If you’re suffering from this world-wide delusion that “football” is a sport played with a round ball that people in shorts kick around a field, you might as well put down the phone and go back to bed.
The point being that while billions of people become fixated on Mundial once every four years, Americans, who know better about these matters, understand the cosmic importance of the Super Bowl, turning it into a yearly ritual of epic proportions (as in LI for 51). It is of no matter that the game has limited appeal in huge areas in the rest of world. Last year, for example, we were at a hotel in Imphal, India, and I can assure you that NOBODY was tuned in. It could have been Groundhog’s Day for all anybody there cared. The 180,000,000 Americans tuned in every year, however, are not concerned about the lack of interest in the backwaters of the world.
But Israel is not – definitely not – a backwater. There are Americans here in The Land! So this place and that place, in certain bars in Jerusalem, in private homes in Ma’ale Adumim or Elazar, when most Israelis are tucked into bed, the TV is on, the snacks are prepared, the fans assembled, and The Game will commence at exactly 1:30 local time.
Now if someone wanted to be snarky, he or she might inquire: “There are 180,000,000 people who watch this event?” “That’s the estimate.” And it’s timed to begin always at 6:30 EST?” “Yes.” “Whether you are watching or not?” “Well, yes.” “They don’t need you for the kickoff.” “No. We were in Imphal last year, and the game went on without me.” “So why are you staying up to watch when you don’t even care who wins?”
Ouch!!! Why am I staying up? Michael is actually getting paid to watch. Guys like Ezra and Yosef might be up anyway just to watch a run-of-the-mill hockey game. But I am rarely up beyond midnight. Let’s be more precise: I am never up that late; even Ron and Esther’s Seder, to which we are permanently invited, is over, and we are snug in our beds well before the pre-game show is over.
Back in The States, I would certainly tune in, but I was usually by myself. I guess I hung out with the wrong crowd, but nobody I knew felt the need to assemble a throng of acolytes to witness the spectacle. When we arrived in The Land, I had no realistic way of watching, as we had no TV or cable connection. Sure I could have headed into Jerusalem and gone to one of the many bars that would be broadcasting the game to a packed crowd of rowdy yeshiva kids. But that was never too appealing. Nor was getting in and out of the city in the dead of night when no buses are running.
So for a number of years, I didn’t get to watch. Well, what changed? I got invited to Ezra’s. He lives down the block. I can walk there in five minutes. I can walk back in five minutes. I know most of the assembled throng. There is plenty of beer, but no one gets too rowdy. And there are chicken wings (even though I won’t eat them in the middle of thenight)!
The Super Bowl is Ezra’s big event. He will start the count-down (and the invitations) a good month in advance. At some point much closer to the game, he will purchase the wings. I wouldn’t want to suggest that Ezra goes a little overboard: this year he got twelve kilo of wings – for eight people. You may do the math, if you are of a mind to.
Although Ezra hosts the party, the actual wings preparation is always handed over to Michael. Saturday night before the game finds Michael cleaning the wings and soaking them in a marinade of lemon juice and garlic. All’s right with the world!
Sunday evening, I finished preparing a fairly large quantity of chili, my contribution to the festivities (which I also won’t eat). Then a pre-Super Bowl nap. And after that, at a few minutes before 1AM, pot of chili in hand, I walked over to Ezra’s.
What’s this? Michael is not there and not answering his phone? All those wings marinating in plastic bags, and no one to cook them? Something must be done!
I calmly sized up the situation. Ezra knew how to turn on the oven, but that’s about it. Besides which, that’s not his job. His is to turn on the TV. Certainly, Shoshana could have taken over, but she and the kids were fast asleep upstairs. There was no way she would be enticed into cooking wings for some helpless males at one in the morning so that they could eat while they watched a stupid football game.
There were two other adult males present, but both of them were glued to the pre-game show. They must have assumed that the wings would get cooked somehow without their involvement. Only one thing to do. After all, I do have fifty years of experience at this sort of thing. Where’s the chicken, Ezra, and get out of my way!
And so I kept getting up to monitor the progress and relative doneness of twelve kilo of wings during the course of the game. I did get to see Former President Bush (41) and his wife, Barbara, (what a great name for a spouse!) being brought out for the ceremonial coin toss. The rousing reception they received demonstrates that if you live long enough, people will forget they didn’t vote for you twenty-five years before. I did get to hide in the kitchen during most of the half-time show. I’d rather look at a half done chicken wing than a half dressed Lady Gaga and a collection of random young things who would have benefited from an aerial spray of valium. At about 2:30, Michael showed up, along with his son, Yisrael, who probably would have preferred to remain in bed. Because of a family miscommunication (no!), Michael had slept through the first hour of the game. No worries, he more than made up for his tardiness in his consumption of wings and beer as the game progressed.
I suppose that anybody who was remotely interested knows about the astounding last quarter comeback by the New England Patriots. I know that lots of well-intentioned fans have a visceral dislike of that team and were seriously hoping that they would be beaten, humiliated, made to do penance for all their misdeeds, real and imagined. These days, my perspective on life is very narrowly focused. Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, ordered a moment of silence at a Patriots’ game to note the murder of Ezra Schwartz, the young fan who was murdered by terrorists while he was attending yeshiva in Israel. Only after the game was it made known that Kraft had invited the entire Schwartz family to attend the Super Bowl as his personal guests. What possible reason would there be for me to root against his team? I read several days later about the atmosphere in the Patriots’ locker room at half time. There were no recriminations, no yelling, no finger pointing. The team spent the time soberly figuring out what they had done wrong and what they needed to do to turn the game around. May I wish that all the retards who overwhelm my Facebook page with their hysterical complaints about most things would learn something from the New England players.
The game was over. Despite their best efforts, the assembled crowd at Ezra’s was not able to finish the twelve kilo of wings, all of which I had cooked, because why not. I headed back home with my pot, long emptied of chili, and a tray of wings, hoping I wouldn’t be attacked by a bunch of hungry street cats along the way. No worries. Even the cats were asleep. Everyone was still asleep. There were no lights on in any of the apartments. The only people who must have been awake were the guys who deliver our newspapers, because there they were on our door mat, waiting for me to bring them in.
It was still too early for the morning prayers. I tiptoed quietly upstairs, trying not to wake my Barbara or either of the two cats. Time to go to sleep, dreaming of Super Bowls past, present, and future – although there would never be a better game than the one we had just seen.