Monday, February 4, 2013

Post-Game Analysis

It's like this.  I write what ever I want and, afterwards, I figure out how it works towards the mission of what I write here.  Today, I'll work the other way.

In, I don't know, maybe four or five years my boys are going to ask why we never watch the Super Bowl and I'll give them some lame answer about how it's always a letdown and these days it takes too long and you end up staying up too late and it's a school night.  Yeah that's all true, but..

In maybe thirty years they will ask me again and I'll tell them I wrote a post about that once:

Last night I watched the game in my basement, I was alone and it was chilly.  I watched downstairs because I wanted my wife to have a chance to watch something she wanted to watch and not suffer through a football game, which she loathes does not like.  I knew the boys needed to get some sleep and that if I was downstairs the crowd noise wouldn't keep them up and curious; there's just something annoying and pervasive about crowd noise through TV speakers.

I watched downstairs because I like to be by myself, have a beer or two and think, not necessarily about the game, any game really, but just think.  The boys went to bed just a little before half-time.  Of course I helped with showers and jammies and the snack and I listened dutifully to yet another "Littles" story before bed.  We gave them some time to talk as we always do, gave hugs and kisses, and I went back downstairs.

Our kids tend to wander back out after we put them to bed, it's irritating, especially when you want to do something, like write heart-wrenching prose or watch Disney movies, but, getting upset with them gets everyone upset, and, no one should go to bed sad, or mad.

I could hear the murmuring and quiet thumping upstairs, above me, and I realized that one was coming my way, through the house, past the Mom sentry, using the secret password "Iwannahug" he padded softly through the kitchen to the top of the stairs.

I panicked.

Why, you ask?  Because an ad was on, for the very beer I was drinking, and it was sexy and loud and lewd and... I didn't want my son to see it.  I scrambled for the remote and just punched the power.  So, now I am a guy sitting in a cold basement drinking a beer.  Yeah.  Z came up behind me and asked why I turned it off.  I told him that I heard him and figured he wanted a hug so I'd give the hug my full attention.  I lied to him.

He went back upstairs and the game reached the zenith, which is of course the half.  I didn't really care about the game talk and such so I went up to see if the boys were settled down.  They were still awake but nodding off.  I said goodnight and passed the sentry and went back downstairs just as the halftime show was about to start.

In thirty or so years it is a sure cinch that this particular performer will be long forgotten and saying her name would be as relevant then as Liberace would be now.  And I don't want her name linked to ihopeiwinatoaster in any way shape or form so I am not going to mention it.  Anyway, within about twenty seconds this "artist" was gyrating to some techno-crap as pyrotechnics flashed and crazed young and sexy and hip fans adored and swooned.

As this stripper artist performer singer person did the show I heard the boys bound off their beds and head out, "Iwannahug," and down the stairs they come.  I was prepared this time and casually switched from the game to PBS, Billy Connolly (whose name I would gladly link here) on a road trip on Route 66.  Nick asked me why I wasn't watching the game.  I lied again and told him an ad was on so I was flipping around.  He looked up at Billy's beautiful, kindly face and said, "he looks nice."  I can't imagine what he would have said if he'd have seen the halftime show.

You know, I know you do, why I lied.  I was ashamed and embarrassed by the program I was watching, I was tuned into something that I would never let my children watch.  The loudness, the salaciousness, the tawdry capitalism dripping with blatant obvious sexual overtones; movies about convicts and car thieves based on a video game; shameless marketing; a hero who is anything but; a game that is, at is very core, violence gentrified, made acceptable. All I can say is: why would I let my nearly eight year-olds watch this crap.  Or my nearly fifteen year-olds, or thirty, or forty.  Why the hell am I watching it?

Why would I want the boy who drew this scene of puppies in scarves in a happy warm home with an "I love Me" poster on the wall see the violence and meanness implicit in the game?

Why would I want the boy who drew this rainbow-colored imp to darken his innocent imagery with beer and booze and boobs?

Why would I want to take this healthy boy's happy view of himself and stain it with the overtones of misogyny  and misguided sexuality?

 And why would I let the author of this precious, beautiful note hear about charges of murder and conspiracy:

You see, I can't; and, I won't.

I stopped watching football last night, in fact, after I realized my shame and came to understand and own it, right there in the middle of a stupid halftime show, I switched over to Billy Connolly which segued right into Downton Abby.  And, I wouldn't have minded one bit if he kids found me watching either of those shows.

Did the murder of Ravens win?

I will again, sometime in the years to come, watch more football; it's unavoidable.  And, of course my sons will see a Super Bowl someday, but, not right away. 

I know my opinion here is not popular or mainstream, and I am not so naive to think that everyone will keep their children from watching these affairs.  My boys are on the innocent side and I'd just like to keep it that way, at least for a little while longer.

In Dr. Meg Meeker's book Boys Should Be Boys she says this in the very early pages of the first chapter:

"When we grew up in the '60s, '70s, and even in the '80s for the most part, it was safe for boys to flip on the TV, because the networks still upheld a general moral consensus; but now we grimace as our boys are inundated with cheap, nasty dialogue and graphic images that reflect cheap, nasty values and an impoverished imagination.  Even when they watch a football game we feel a gnawing in our stomach because commercials will educate them about Viagra, erectile dysfunction, and most certainly about voluptuous older women."

That was nearly five years ago and the situation has only gotten worse.

Someone I know posted this last night, she's a loving mother married to a decent, honest man who works in the sports industry.  "It's really sad to me how unwholesome the Super Bowl has become.  I can't even let my 2 1/2 yr old sit and watch the commercials & halftime show without screening practically everything first.  I know I sound really stuffy & uptight, but seriously!"

No, my dear, you do not sound stuffy and uptight - you sound heroic and strong and capable and your daughter is very lucky to have you.

I will probably get some grief for my position on all this.

I don't care.


  1. No grief - only applause
    - the sentry

  2. It's a sad state of affairs. My son is four and he's in the question-asking phase. When he sees a commercial, he wants to know why the person in the commercial is doing something. So, when he sees violence, he wants to know why someone hit someone else. When he sees people kissing, he wants to know why they're kissing. The answer is usually "there's no reason." Or the more societally-relevant "oh, they're just selling something." We try and flip the channel when commercials like this come on, but it's everywhere. Society can't go back to the sensibilities of yesteryear without people feeling like their freedoms have been limited. And it's sad, because when I'm not able to watch television with my son unless it's on one of his children's channels, MY freedom is limited - not in a real, legal way - but in an emotional one.

  3. Katie BrocklehurstFebruary 4, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    I couldn't agree more, Bill. Thank you for your honest perspective. We had the game on for about 10 minutes before I shut it off and sent the kids to the basement with their dad to practice basketball. It's filthy....makes me feel dirty to watch it sometimes, and the commentary is just as bad. I am thankful that my parents raised me to have a solid enough moral compass to be able to sift through the crap and understand how awful most of it is. My opinion is that just because things are "mainstream" doesn't mean they're okay. Especially for my kids. You're a great dad, Marci's a great mom, and the boys are so blessed to have you both. Preach on.

  4. I was so excited that I DIDN'T have to watch the Superbowl this year. And then Oldest said he HAD to watch it for the commercials and some statistic thing for math. *sigh* He watched until just after half time, but I was actually a bit embarrassed by the half time show. I like Beyonce, but it was a bit too racy for me.

    And the funny thing is.... Tony said the same thing when he came home from his "guys night out".

  5. I get your sensibility, Bill. All sorts of things that seemed innocuous as a bachelor take on a very different tone when I have a little one around. Things I could pretend to ignore (do we ever really ignore stuff?) are things I can not pretend my child will ignore. It's tough, too, when such entertaining, engaging stuff gets all mixed in with the rest. Like, as far as my two-year-old's development and sensibilities are concerned, would walking in on me watching A Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead on TV be any different than walking in on me watching hard-core pornography?

    Tough stuff to figure out - obviously there IS adult fare that we shouldn't have to be ashamed of with-holding from the kids...but at what point does all of this hiding and sneaking create a domestic culture of secrecy? And when we hide things, does it make them seem like a hidden treasure to our kids?

    I don't know. Supposedly there are people out there who don't even have TV in their home, but I'm not sure it makes the stuff any less tempting to kids, at sleepovers or friends houses or whatever. It's all worth struggling with, though. It makes me sad when I go to see something like Prometheus in the theater, and people have toddlers sitting on their laps.