Sunday, February 01, 2004

Are You Ready for Some Football?
I have quoted foreign barbarian coworker Jeff's wise counsel on China in the past: "Be patient. It's taken them 5,000 years to develop a Third World Country." Today I am happy to report that China has finally attained First World status.
No, I'm not talking about another manned space launch or even a national mandate for sit-down toilets, toilet paper and paper towels in all restrooms. It was much, much bigger than that.
I was able to watch Super Bowl XXXVIII live from the Lucky Number Apartment. Doing so, though, took some some planning. While it was Super Sunday in the U.S., here it was Miserable Monday and the game began at 7 a.m. I also had to work and after I learned that Pats vs. Cats would indeed be broadcast on the government network, CCTV, I began scheming for an excuse to come in late Monday morning. It finally came to me on Thursday afternoon.
I approached second in command Alex and relying on the general Chinese ignorance of and indifference to American football told him that I needed Monday morning off for "religious reasons."
He may not comprende NFL, but Alex is no fool and was a little curious. "Christmas is past," he replied. "What religion? Why Monday morning?"
I explained that I belonged to a minor religion - hard pressed to come up with a name quickly I mumbled something like "Turfitarians, an offshoot of Christianity, but more inclusive" - that followed the thoughts of great American prophets,
"There have been many - 37, or more - since the original teacher, Teacher Lombardi. There are Prophets Namath, Unitas, Starr, Bradshaw, Montana, Elway..."
He was silent. I kept pushing. "Traditionally followers usually meet on the last Sunday in January for what we call Super Sunday. This year is will be on February 1 in the U.S. We meditate on the thoughts and deeds of the two best prophets and one is appointed for the coming year. This year there are Prophet Brady and a new one, Prophet Delhomme. I want to study and to consult with others on the telephone in the U.S. during the same time. We will meditate and discuss Brady Thought and Delhomme Thought."
He thought for a moment and quietly told me it was OK. But I'm still not sure he bought it.
Though I donned a tattered, faded and shrunken Broncos '88 AFC championship T-shirt for it, watching the game with Chinese broadcasters and a Chinese feed wasn't exactly the same. Commentary and play-by-play action was unintelligible except for odd bursts like BlahblahblahChineseblah - BLITZ! - blahblah - IN THE POCKET! - bblahblahChinese - RED ZONE! (Yes, incredibly there is apparently no Chinese translation for "Red Zone"...)- blahblah - NO HUDDLE HURRY-HURRY OFFENSE! ..."
There were no commercials and I only learned of Justin Timberlake tearing off Janet Jackson's top from the Internet. The Chinese feed's halftime music audio was terrible, though and cut away midway through Kid Rock's flag-draped hoohaw in favor of old NFL light features about mascots and - thankfully - cheerleaders. But like viewing it in the U.S., I managed to miss some key plays and a couple touchdowns while I was in the bathroom or kitchen and was only alerted to significant action by one Chinese announcer who would scream "WOW-WOW!"
Lacking nachos, chips, pizza and Bud, I slurped down noodles and a glass and a half of Great Wall red and stayed til the thrilling finale.
I made to the office by noon and Alex - who was leaving for lunch - asked me how it had gone.
"It was much like a previous Super Sunday," I said. "After close examination, Prophet Brady was selected with the help of a Disciple named Vinatieri."

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