What's to watching a football game? It's simple. It's your team's thugs against the other team's, and may the guys with the best barbells win. It's pretty much like in life. The nice guys finish last. You don't need a Rhodes scholar to tell you that.
Well, let's let one, anyway. Let's let Pat Haden--who took his ball and went to study at Oxford in between passes and sacks for two Southern California schools and two Southern California professional teams--shed light on what it is that makes so many of us so game for this game.
This is, after all, Silent Sunday--the first Sunday since Sept. 8 that there are no National Football League games. It is a day set aside by the Madison Avenue minds that took a game out of a cornfield in Green Bay, Wis., and gave it glitter and glitz to prepare ourselves, much as one would prepare for a trip to Lourdes.
Super Bowl XX!
After 448 games and innumerable crucial third-down plays, post patterns and crackback blocks, we're down to two teams. Next Sunday, it's the cream of the NFL crop. Best of the best, baddest of the bad.
Pat Haden has been there. Well, almost there. The year that his L.A. Rams went to Super Bowl XIV (1980), he was injured, and Vince Ferragamo was the quarterback.
He has impeccable credentials to advise us on watching football: He was an All-American at Bishop Amat in La Puente; was the starting quarterback at USC for two Rose Bowl seasons (and one Rose Bowl victory, over Ohio State); was the starting quarterback for the California Sun of the World Football League and the league's top passer during its abbreviated existence, and was the Rams' starting quarterback most of the six years he played, retiring in the spring of '82. He now ranks fifth on the Rams' all-time passing list, behind Roman Gabriel, Norm Van Brocklin, Bob Waterfield and Ferragamo.
Haden has been both a student of the game and a student, period. He's a member of Phi Beta Kappa. His Rhodes scholarship took him to Oxford in 1975 and '76. When he retired, he'd completed his law credits at Loyola Marymount and took a job with the L.A. law firm of Lillick, McHose & Charles. And before the tears were dry at his retirement press conference, he'd accepted a job as a game analyst for CBS college football telecasts.
Through it all, Haden has retained a sense of humor and a perspective not always found in the sweat-sock and shoulder-pad set. He's watched the game from every conceivable angle--underneath its pileups, along its sidelines, in its bleachers and broadcast booths and on the living-room side of the TV cameras. As he sees it, the art of game-watching falls into two simple categories: how to prepare to watch a football game, and how to watch it. And he has tips for watching in person and on TV. HOW TO PREPARE TO WATCH A FOOTBALLGAME
Buy binoculars. And use them. (This applies only to in-person attendance, unless you keep your TV set in the ballroom at Buckingham Palace.)
"You can't watch the big one-on-one battles between tackles from the 50th row without them. On third and eight, when Mark Gastineau goes after the quarterback with blood in his eyes, you can focus in on him. You choose what you want to see. The players are still pretty young, but most of our eyes aren't." Record the game on your VCR.
"It just could turn out to be a great one, and this will give you future enjoyment." Watch the pregame shows, and study the newspapers in the days before the game.
"Pregame shows do a nice job of setting the scene. They tell you about the key match-ups. You find out things like, maybe, Tony Dorsett isn't as good a runner on a grass field as he is on artificial turf because he's used to the turf. The pregame shows and the papers spend some time on the line play. Once the game starts, most of the players you see and hear about are the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers." Plan your day. Control the size of your watching party.
"If you are a real hard-core fan, suggest that your wife take the kids and visit her mother (or vice versa if the wife is the fan). I have kind of an unwritten deal with my wife for regular-season Monday night games. The first half, I watch with the family around. But for the second half, I'm on my own and left alone.
"If you're an avid fan, plan to watch the game with another avid fan. A big part of the fun is sharing the game with somebody else who cares as much about it as you do.
"If you want it to be a social day but want to see the game, limit your party to six to eight people. Otherwise, you'll see very little of the game." Some food for thought about food.
"If you're watching at home, make the sandwiches ahead of time. If you are going to the game, pack your lunch. The more you have to leave your seat for the refreshment stand, the more it takes you away from the game. In the old days, they used to have hot dogs. Now they have the same thing, but they call it a Super Dog and charge $3." Moderate your drinking.