Monday, February 04, 2008


It's Super Bowl Sunday in the States. It's the Patriots versus the Giants, New England versus New York, or, as many non-football loving persons like to put it, playboy Tom Brady versus boy-next-door Eli Manning.

(For the record: I'm for the Patriots. People always like to pull for the underdog, which in this case is the less-favored Giants. But what's a bigger nemesis than perfection? What odds are greater to overcome than that of history? Go Pats go!)

Every year, Super Bowl weekend takes me back to a particular incident from my thankfully-now-distant past. It was Super Bowl XXX, back when the halftime festivities didn't matter as much, when Playboy bunnies didn't try to take a morsel of the ratings, and when the Super Bowl ads (at a gazillion dollars a minute) were the only sideshow worth talking about. Cowboys versus Steelers, Dallas-Pittsburgh, Aikman/Emmitt/Irvin versus I-don't-even-remember.

We were still living in Jakarta then, meaning football mattered because of all the American classmates I had at the International School. Cable was yet a prominent concept so coverage of the game was only available to the Americans via a military network hooked up to places like the American Embassy or the American Club, where many members of their armed forces worked and lived.

A classmate of mine invited me to his house for what would be my first and last Super Bowl party. I found myself in a living room full of military men and their families crowded around a then large TV. Buffalo wings aplenty. It was the first time I ever tried guacamole.

Coverage of the game was delayed a few hours so my friend and I walked over to the American Club park and tossed the football around. A hyped-up football fan, no more than 13, joined us from inside the club, where they had an advanced hook-up. The game had already ended. He told us who won.

After half an hour of quasi-shotgun plays and last second heaves, we headed back to the house where their hookup was only beginning its coverage. Innocently, I told the crowd who won, only to have grown, muscular white men with buzz cuts "playfully" throwing pillows at me.

My friend and I went up to his room where we hung out for a while. His brother joined us, asked who the spoiler was. I raised my hand. "That was stupid," he said.

In walked my friend's mother and the sermon began: "You know some of those men out there traveled from other cities to watch this game." She looked at me in utter disgust. I don't remember what else she said. I couldn't have been older than seven.

The next thing I remember was being told that my sundo was outside the house. They couldn't have been more thankful. As I stepped out of the bedroom and peeked into the living room, I heard the commentators on TV describing what was going on. The stadium crowd was quite boisterous. The military men and their families, on other hand, munched on chips quietly, not really watching at all.

Weeks later, I remember seeing my American friend and his father at the driving range. I was there with my own father. The only open slot was next to theirs so we took it. My friend gave me a wave; his father saw me but didn't say a thing.

I don't remember who won the game. All I remember was who lost.


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