Most people don’t think of me as a big sports fan, so they might be surprised to learn I’m a pretty good prognosticator.
(Look it up, like I did.)
When I found out the Chicago Bears were playing the New Orleans Saints for a berth in the Superbowl, I asked one simple question: “Where are they playing?”
“The Bears will win. If it’s snowing, the Bears will win big.”
I said it with such certainty, such conviction, that friends and colleagues were shocked. They were shocked because I haven’t watched a football game since last year’s Superbowl. What they don’t know is that the reason I haven’t watched a game is not because I don’t like football, but because when I watch I root for a team, and when I root for a team they lose. It’s Hunter’s Law of Sports.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s not why I knew the Bears would win. For me, the answer to that one was very simple: The Saints are from New Orleans, a city that lies on, or sometimes under, the Gulf Coast, and is generally warm. I figured by the time the team members were finished with their warm up – a term I find ironic – they’d be so sick of Chicago weather that the only thing they’d be able to think about is going home and getting into a hot Jacuzzi.
If the game had been held down south, I would have bet the Bears would be going down with heat stroke by the end of the first quarter. It’s not just whether the stadium is an indoor or outdoor model – it’s the psychological impact of knowing the weather outside is fifty degrees to one side or the other of where you’re used to it.
Now, obviously that method of prediction isn’t going to work for the Superbowl, since two Midwestern teams that are used to similar weather conditions are playing. So, can I predict who’s going to win the Big One?
Sure I can, and it goes right back to why I don’t watch football. I’m sorry to report that the Colts are going to lose, and the reason they’re going to lose is that I’ll be watching. I’ve rooted for the Colts ever since they were in Baltimore when I was a kid, because I’ve always been a history fan and hey – Baltimore. Fort McHenry, and all that. The only time I wouldn’t root for them would be if they played the Patriots. (Yes, I’m aware of the irony.)
Then they came to Indiana, and I’m a Hoosier, so being a fan became a requirement. In Indiana there are certain constants: You watch the Indy 500, you watch for deer when driving, you watch with fear the State Legislature, and you watch the Colts. (Long time Bears fans do get a pass on that one.)
But again, the team I root for loses. Want proof? My favorite baseball team is the Cubs – I rest my case.
Just the same, I sat down to watch the Colts play the Patriots, thinking maybe I’d been imagining the whole thing. For an entire half, I watched the game. The Colts fumbled, fell, spit into the wind, had twelve men on the field, and split their pants in the worst cases of wardrobe malfunctions since Janet. Near the end of the second quarter the Patriots were so embarrassed to be winning so handily that they sent their cheerleaders in to replace their offensive line. The cheerleaders scored a touchdown and a field goal.
Disgusted and exhausted, I grabbed a throw pillow, flung myself across my chair, and closed my eyes. Within twenty seconds I heard the announcer’s shocked voice as the Colts ran back 150 yards for a touchdown. I know it seems unlikely, since there are only 100 yards to go, but apparently they zigzagged.
So I kept my eyes closed and, pretending I was listening to the radio, made sure to keep them closed. For the rest of the game the Colts could do no wrong: They danced across the end zone, knocked the Patriot’s cheerleader line flat without even flirting, and kicked a field goal that actually bounced back, was kicked again soccer style, and got them six points instead of three.
The only time they floundered was when I got up to go to the bathroom and accidentally looked at the screen, just in time to see the Patriots make their final score. I kept my eyes closed when I returned, of course, but don’t worry – my nose will heal.
So now I’m in something of a predicament. I don’t want the Colts to lose, but I want to watch the game. Pretending to cheer on the Bears won’t work – the Powers That Be Cruel can sense these things. If I tape it to watch later, I’m afraid I could contribute to the first Superbowl in history in which the officials decide after the fact that something was done horribly wrong, and order a do-over. You see my problem.
Bookies everywhere are breathlessly awaiting my decision, not to mention the Bears Cheerleaders.
Maybe I’ll just listen.