Let's face it: the only thing duller than the Super Bowl is the State of the Union speech, and the Super Bowl only wins this yawn-off because of its clever ads. Never have so few been paid so much for standing around spitting on the grass. The average grade school Christmas program is marginally shorter and offers infinitely more drama and real emotion.

So how was it that I found myself - sober as the pope before his driving test - watching and even occasionally enjoying this year's game, which was stuck at a score of 7-3 for so long I toyed with calling 911 to have a defibrillator delivered?

For one thing (and yes, I'm embarrassed to admit this), I broke down and bought a flat-screen TV for Christmas and wondered what the ridiculous rectangular circus would look like in high definition. (Turns out the thrill of being able to read the manufacturer labels on players' uniforms soon lost its novelty.)

For another, I harbor a nostalgic affection for the New York Giants dating back to my 20s when I regarded Dan Jenkins' raunchy ode to professional football, "Semi-Tough," as a font of wisdom on par with the Tao Te Ching. The story of the Giants' star quarterback and running back who both lust after the same college sweetheart, my paperback copy still falls open to their juvenile rating system for women that frankly set me up for a long bachelorhood - not that I didn't have a certain amount of fun along the way in pursuit of a "One."

Examples: "A One was well-read and smart and witty but not as well-read and smart and witty as some guys she hung around with." "A One never got mad at anything a man might accidentally do, no matter how thoughtless or careless it might be." "A One had to be extremely gorgeous in all ways from the minute she woke up in the morning until she fixed a man his cold meatloaf sandwich after love practice at four A.M."

Gee, hard to figure why I stayed single so long, ain't it?

If, as somebody observed, war is months of soul-crushing boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror, the Super Bowl is only made watchable by the fleeting possibility of a play like that which put the Giants in the lead with a last-minute touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress. I won't bore you with the details - if you really care you were watching it live anyway - but it was a magically improbable Rube-Goldberg sort of play, the football equivalent of a bluebird accidentally singing the theme to "Star Trek."

My dad would have loved it, if for no other reason than it made his boys laugh. It's safe to say my parents and grandparents were not fans of the game. Even when Grandma and Grandpa got lucky and atmospheric conditions were just so, they could only get two TV stations at their little farm. So they now and then were forced to watch football for a few minutes before shaking their heads and going off to irrigate the hay pasture, chop kindling or any of their other approximately 8,000 daily chores.

Attempts to explain the subtleties of downs, extra points, pass interference and punts might as well have been delivered in ancient Hebrew for all the good our polite tutorials did. (Though, come to think of it, maybe Grandpa and Grandma were just playing dumb to make we grandsons think we knew more than they did about something - even if it was something as artificial as the Astro-turf on which it was played.)

Even silly activities can end up having meaning. In a convoluted way, I owe my life to football. It was as a college sports photographer that I first became a quasi-paid journalist. Those were great days down on the field in the autumn sun. The excitement and fun were real.

The Giants' win, unscripted and messy, was a reminder of what I once loved about the game. Was it enough to get me back into the habit of watching pro football? Not a chance. But it was one of those rare occasions when I came away from a Super Bowl with the feeling I had been entertained, if only for a few seconds.

Chinook Observer editor Matt Winters lives in Ilwaco with his wife (who is frequently a One) and daughter.

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