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Bowled Over--and Under : Sure, it's the NFL's biggest game of the season. But it's also a once-a-year opportunity for fans to do remarkably stupid things at parties. Namely, stuff popcorn up a defenseless friend's nostrils.

January 27, 1994|RICH TOSCHES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES: Tosches, who moved to Colorado from Woodland Hills nine months ago, will spend Sunday watching the game with a new circle of idiots

After XXVII Super Bowls, memories are stamped into the mind like the smoking brands on dumb, snorting steroid-fed bulls, which is sort of what you'll see if you watch Super Bowl XXVIII.

I don't mean memories of the games themselves. Let's be honest about that. XXVII years of Super Bowls have produced the same amount of unforgettable, riveting moments as a Jim Nabors concert.

I mean the real memories. The ones that could never fade, no matter how many blows to the head you take or how many Richard Riordan speeches you listen to.

I'm talking memories of Super Bowl parties.

Such as Super Bowl XVI.

Chuck falls asleep--or passes out, as everyone except him calls it--on my sofa shortly after halftime. Roger stumbles over to him, a puffy kernel of popcorn in each hand. Quickly, with little fanfare, Roger jams a kernel of popcorn up each of Chuck's nostrils.

I'm talking way up.

Chuck snaps awake with quite the odd expression and, still incoherent, lurches wildly across the room, making great grunting and wheezing sounds. Well, we assumed they were great sounds. The laughter from the other 14 guys in the room pretty much drowned it out.

Now that was a Super Bowl.

Or Super Bowl XV, which was just I year before the Popcorn Up Chuck's Nose Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XV became known, in my circle of idiots, as the Pete Has a Halibut in His Shorts Super Bowl.

Pete was an old college buddy from New Jersey who was in Los Angeles on business at precisely the wrong time. I brought him to the Super Bowl party at a friend's house in Redondo Beach. Pete was also a bit shy, so to ease his anxiety in a room filled with strangers, Pete stood in the middle of the room and smoked a rather hefty joint. By himself. He then beamed himself into the kitchen and drank many, many of the host's beers.

All by the second quarter of the game.

Round about halftime, Pete noticed that the Pacific Ocean was just outside the door. He went for a walk on the beach. But unlike ordinary walks on the beach, which generally tend to proceed in a direction roughly parallel to the pounding surf, Pete--who by now was introducing himself as a welder from Shreveport named Phillip--pioneered a style of walking on the beach that was, well, perpendicular to the pounding surf.

He was briefly pummeled by the waves and returned moments later to the house with his shorts filled with sand, a large strand of kelp dangling from a pocket.

"Have a little swim for yourself, Pete?" asked Steve, who did not know Pete at all but certainly recognized a target for ridicule when he saw one.

"Maybe you got a halibut in there someplace," he said, thus labeling that Super Bowl forever.

My point here, I believe, is that for men, Super Bowls are once-a-year opportunities to do remarkably stupid things.

Ask any guy a question about, let's say, Super Bowl XXI. I don't mean who was the leading rusher and how many times did he carry the ball. I mean something like, "What two teams played in it?"--and likely you'll get that same blank stare you get when you ask him why he still wears underwear that he bought during the Johnson Administration.

Frankly, they just don't know.

But ask a guy to give you any outstanding Super Bowl memory, and watch his eyes light up as if he had just learned his mother-in-law will be cutting her visit short by a month.

Because in XXVII years, all of us men have stood--well, slumped--witness to at least one Super Bowl party incident that fell in that hard-to-define, gray area between felony and funny. Come to think of it, even the ones that might have been felonies were funny.

So to all the women who don't quite grasp this concept of men gathering in front of a TV set to watch people with no necks repeatedly ramming into each other as we drink beer, shout and stain your carpets with pepperoni pizza, be patient with us. Because we're not quite sure why we do it either.

And if you're lucky, none of us will sneak out the door at halftime and pee in your shrubs.

Oh, you betcha' that's happened.

It's a guy thing.

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