It's always been my dirty little secret, this total disdain for organized team sports in general and bowl bilge in particular.
I read the sports pages for the tire specials and the home computer ads. I don't like Tank McNamara. My only acceptable rationale for pausing at any channel during a football game has to do with voyeurism and cheerleaders, not end runs and interceptions.
Stu Nahan, Roy Firestone, Ted Dawson and Brent Musburger are probably real swell folk--the kind a team-sports hater like myself wouldn't mind teaming up with in a Trivial Pursuit tournament. I take the questions about who the fifth Beatle was and they get the ones about the number of field goals it took to win the 1959 Tidy Bowl. Maybe they like tennis--one of the few tolerables on my short, short list of "Sports I Like."
But I wouldn't invite any of those guys over on New Year's Day. Not with five--count 'em, five--bowl games cluttering up the tube.
I've had a tough enough time surviving one more autumn, with long, overcast weekend days monopolized by endless games-of-the-week. It's gotten so I dread the day I find Kung Fu Theater preempted by the Fighting Something-or-Others doing gridiron battle with the Fighting Do-Wah-Diddies.
I find myself getting caught up in my children's passion for Smurfs, Chipmunks, Mr. T and other goofy creatures. There are Saturday afternoons in late November, I must confess, when both the Munsters and Gilligan's Island begin to hold an absorbing appeal for me.
By noon on a rainy Saturday, I find myself flipping around the dial desperately in search of Ebert & Siskel, a Three Stooges marathon or some serviceable double-checked 1950s retread movie. I'll watch "Creole Cooking" on Channel 28 before surrendering to the exploits of some 10-foot grunt-backer named Bubba or Big Joe.
But the American lust for firsts-and-10s is winning out, I'm afraid. The New Year's Day bowl glut stands as testimony that closet quiche-eaters like me are losing.
I can't help it. Perhaps my father beat me with a goal post for crossing the line of scrimmage during my formative years. I don't know. I know it's un-American, this ugly, irrational abhorrence of ritualized dumb violence, especially on the first day of the new year.
But when the conversation inevitably turns to them Trojans or those Raiders at the local brew palace, I think of birth control or aerosol ant poison before I think of football.
There are times when knowing precisely how Lyle Alzado snapped his tendon or why the Iowa Hawkeyes (or is that Buckeyes? Cornhuskers? Wheatthrashers? Hayburners? Oatcleaners? Ah, heck . . . ) won't participate in the traditional Beef Bowl is de rigueur. Yammering fellow reporters or would-be tailbacks-turned-editors obsessed with the Rose Bowl point spread will solicit everybody's opinion at least once.
So when I'm asked, I bluff.
The surprising thing is that most of the time, I am believed.
Fellow reporter: "Geez, guess Texas A&M don't stand much of a chance against Bo Jackson, eh?"
Me: "Guess not. You'd think a big-name school like that would have better odds against a po-dunk university like Bo Jackson State, wouldn't you?"
Well, there are puzzled looks and occasional head-shaking, but for the most part my reputation as a kidder gets me through these exchanges unscathed.
Fellow reporter (guffawing): "Hah! Yeah, Jackson's the whole team, all right! Bo Jackson State! Hah! That's a good one!"
Hope Bo and all the Texas A's and M's have a swell time today.
I think I'll go to the movies.