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Year-End Update: Revisiting Scenes and People From 1986 View Stories : It's Not All in the Game

December 28, 1986|JOHN DREYFUSS

View has revisited some of the people and places it reported on in 1986 to update their stories. Among them:

--A shelter for the homeless that was itself homeless.

--An author who had new ideas about how to market and promote his book.

--The campaign to save Nancy Reagan's 1981 inaugural gown, which is stretching under the weight of its bugle beads.

Al Schwartz is in trouble. All that can save him is the New York Giants football team, or a change of heart.

When it comes to football, Schwartz is a student of the heart. Last year, the Pitzer College sociology professor divided the more than 100 million Americans who spent Super Bowl Sunday glued to television into neat categories.

His personal dilemma: For the upcoming Big Game, he can't find a category for himself.

Schwartz, who teaches a class called "Sports and Society," once fancied himself a member of the Involved Onlooker category, in the good company of certain beer distributors and bus drivers who are professionally affected by the game.

But now, if the Giants entertain America in Super Bowl XXI on Jan. 25, Schwartz will have to find himself another category. "And to tell the truth," he said, "I don't think I fit in any other slot."

The Giants have won their division, and they may well make it to the Super Bowl for the first time. If they do, and if they turn up there favored to win, Schwartz will have to cheer for the other team, even though he's been a Giant fan for 45 of his 53 years.

"Since I've been rooting for the Giants for so many years, I'm used to rooting for the underdog," he said. "I don't think I can change that habit."

In the likely event that the Giants turn out to be Super Bowl underdogs, Schwartz says he will be in even more trouble because he would be rooting for his longtime favorites. He would care too much; he said he definitely would "take the game seriously."

Although--or perhaps because--the professor makes his living in part by dealing with sports, he does not take them seriously.

"There's less to professional football than meets the eye," he observed.

"I guess the best solution for me," Schwartz said, "would be if the Giants revert to form and don't make it to the Super Bowl."

For the most recent Super Bowl, where the Chicago Bears trounced the New England Patriots, Schwartz developed categories of television football watchers ranging from the Truly Committed, whose fierce and unwavering fansmanship keeps professional football going, through Highlighters, who look up from their books only when someone says, "Wow, check out that replay," to Overt Hostiles, whose typical comment is, "Take the Super Bowl and stuff it."

Schwartz said his research shows that a considerable majority of the fans who watch the Super Bowl on the tube can't remember by the next year who won and, in about half the cases, who played.

"The game's importance seems to be centrally a kind of ritual celebration, a kind of cultural coming together. We gear up for it and anticipate it with relish, but when it's over we remember it in the haziest of ways, with a kind of fuzz around it. It's like a wedding anniversary."

For those who wish to group themselves among kindred Super Bowl watchers, here are Schwartz's other categories:

--Bettors: Wagerers whose bank accounts direct their rooting.

--Ephemeral Fans: Flexible folks who start watching without a favorite but develop one during the game.

--Game Appreciators: Aficionados of the game, but they don't care which team wins.

--Hostiles, Closet: Super Bowl haters who make an excuse not to watch the game, or watch it in silence, teeth clenched, smiles frozen on their faces.

--Male Culturists: Males who watch because they're macho , or want to be.

--Partiers: Fun lovers looking for an excuse for a party.

--Pop Culturists: "With it" types who don't know what the game's about, but celebrate it anyway.

--Short-Term Converts: Fans who rooted for another team during the season but can't bear not to take sides for the Super Bowl.

--Tolerators: They don't know what the fuss is, but they accept it and forget it.

--Unawares: Folks who don't know there is a Super Bowl.

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