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Jack Smith

He's taking his wife to the Big Game, in hopes she'll be bowled over by the offensive guards

January 22, 1987|JACK SMITH

Only three days till Super Sunday!

Can you stand the tension?

This annual apotheosis of professional football--the Super Bowl--is to American sports what Easter is to the Christian faith.

Except possibly for the Statue of Liberty's birthday celebration, no other public event has so thoroughly focused the attention of Americans on the television screen.

Unless you happen to be among the 103,000 unfortunate enough to have tickets to this titanic contest at the Rose Bowl, you will most likely be among the 80 million or so watching it on TV.

I say unfortunate because the Rose Bowl's exits are too few and too narrow, it is too hard to get into a rest room, and parking is a disaster. Going to a sellout football game at the Rose Bowl can only be considered an act of religious devotion.

If you don't happen to like football, get out on a freeway--you will have the glorious experience of feeling that you own it. Everyone else will be either at the bowl or at home watching TV.

That happened to me one year when I had to attend a wedding at the Ambassador Hotel during the Super Bowl, and when I drove home over the Hollywood and Pasadena freeways I saw hardly a dozen other cars. It was exhilarating.

Of course that was several years ago. I doubt that anyone would be foolish enough today to get married during a Super Bowl; or to do anything else that required the presence of other people.

As improbable as it may seem, there are those who couldn't care less about football, and I happen to be married to one. Many women don't like football, and seem immune to its beauty and its drama, as well as to its chess-like complexities. I suspect it's some deficiency in their hormones.

Over the years I have done everything I could to familiarize my wife with the game, thinking that familiarization breeds interest.

I have taken her to games, read the sports pages to her, even introduced her in person to Jack Youngblood, the handsome Ram defensive end, and recently I ordered former Raider Coach John Madden's book on football for her from the Book-of-the Month Club. Madden is the big noisy guy who is always bursting through paper walls in the beer commercials.

Nothing avails. Instead of reading Madden's book, she's reading Sidney Sheldon's latest international sex thriller, about a small-town Kansas housewife and college teacher who becomes the U.S. ambassador to Romania.

What good will that do her mind?

Now I am making what I consider the ultimate effort. I am taking her to the Super Bowl.

We have two tickets. I am told they are worth $1,500 each on the street, but I would not part with them at any price, as long as I have hope that actually seeing a Super Bowl will ignite some ember in my wife's psyche and she will be able to share my passion for this aesthetically gratifying form of culture.

She isn't insensitive to beauty. She feels about ballet the way I feel about football, and I'm sure she has dragged me more often to ballets than I have dragged her to football games.

I did get her to go with me to that classic game in the Coliseum about 20 years ago, in the era of Gary Beban and O. J. Simpson, when O. J.'s 65-yard run for USC defeated the UCLA Bruins, 21-20. I was in gloom for a week, and she kept trying to tell me that it was "only a game." As long as they think it's "only a game," they of course do not understand it.

I will say she enjoyed a preseason Rams game I took her to at Anaheim Stadium. We sat in The Times box, drinking wine and cooking our own hot dogs, and at half time we were invited to Georgia Frontiere's box, which is something like a two-story Park Avenue apartment. My wife was especially impressed by Mrs. Frontiere's upstairs Jacuzzi.

Actually, I didn't buy the Super Bowl tickets. Bill Dwyre, our sports editor, gave them to me because he wants me to write a story on the game. I haven't written a sports story since I retired from the sports pages in 1939--but what the heck, it's kind of like riding a bicycle, isn't it?

I've been preparing by reading Madden's book. He says that if you want to know what's happening, you should watch the offensive guards, not the quarterback. So I'm going to watch the guards on Sunday.

Also, I'm going to instruct my wife to watch the guards. The guards, you know, are those two monsters who line up on either side of the center. They usually go about 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds.

If I know her, though, she'll be watching the quarterback. Quarterbacks are flashy; they usually have the ball, and if you don't really know what's happening, you think all the action centers on them. Of course that's superficial.

By the way, I have some reputation among my friends for predicting the outcome. In 1984, when the Raiders beat the Redskins, 38-9, fooling all the experts, I predicted they would win, 38-16. Nobody else was that close. The trouble is, I forgot to print it in advance.

The last I heard, the Giants were 9 1/2-point favorites for Sunday's game. Let me get this on the record--I predict: Broncos 20, Giants 17.

I'll get back to you.

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