Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Great Moments in Television

I’ve been watching Redskins football for a more than two decades, and have had a variety of game-watching experiences. I remember injuring myself back in 1982 attempting a gleeful, awkward somersault while Mike Nelms returned a kickoff 76 yards against Dallas in the NFC Championship game. I didn’t care that it left a bruise. I remember rooting against my Redskins for the first and only time on January 10, 1988, as Washington bested the team of my childhood hero, Walter Payton. It was his final game, and I secretly held back tears as the rest of my family cheered the Redskins’ Super Bowl berth.

Nothing so memorable happened as I watched the Redskins versus Broncos ,but it sure was dramatic.

Every story worth repeating begins with the words “my mother-in-law,” and this one is no different. My mother-in-law’s birthday was this past Saturday, and on Sunday her family decided to celebrate her [censored]th birthday with dinner at a local restaurant. She and the family were traveling back from an early hiking trip and estimated their arrival at the restaurant at around 5PM. The Redskins game was scheduled to begin at 4:15PM. Apart from faking a serious illness (such as typhoid fever), there was no getting out of the birthday dinner.

My wife and I had spent the early afternoon traipsing around Bowie after church, waiting on when to meet her family. When we got word of the 5 o’clock estimate, I guessed I had just enough time to head home, hit Record on my DVR and prepare to leave for dinner. And that’s what I did. I was actually able to see Portis’ fumble before my wife pulled me out of the house.

Throughout dinner, of course, my mind wandered back to the Redskins game—how bad were the Broncos winning? Would we keep fumbling all day? Can Moss continue being clutch on third downs? Is my team for real this year? It was maddening. I nonetheless felt comfortable, knowing that the game was being recorded and that if I could deftly avoid any and all mentions of the game, it would be like watching it live. Sort of.

I wasn’t able to watch my recording until near 9PM. I sat down with pen and paper, ready to take in every aspect of the game and enjoy the freedom of rewinding plays and skipping commercials ad nauseum. The game was highly entertaining, and I’m proud to say I resisted the urge to fast forward through plays, then rewind if something interesting happened. Call me a disciplined Redskins fan.

Midway through the third quarter, when the game seemed destined to be a close finish, I realized that my DVR didn’t record the game, but CBS’ estimated three hour, fifteen minute block of time for the game. “Surely,” I assured myself, “this game will end on time. Not too many penalties, few injuries…”

Perhaps you see where this story is headed.

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Redskins were down by 11, but I was the one getting desperate. The Redskins kicked a field goal to pull within eight, the defense forced Denver into a three-and-out, and with four minutes left in regulation—and six minutes of recording—the Redskins began the potential tying drive on their six yard line.

Each play seemed to take forever (“Why aren’t we in hurry up?!?” I exclaimed to Washington, who still had four minutes to play), and when a referee was steamrolled by Robert Royal, I felt for him—I really did—but I sat aghast at the resulting mandatory television time out. Another 1:30 of commercials.

With fifteen seconds left of recording, the Redskins had used four game time minutes and managed to only reach their own 49 yard line. But that was okay, because Gibbs and company were facing a fourth and ten with just over two minutes remaining. “This is for the game,” the broadcast team reminded the uninformed viewer. I nodded my head in agreement.

Mark Brunell dropped back, and…was sacked for a nine-yard loss. My recording stopped on the image of Denver tackle Gerard Warren celebrating while Brunell peeled himself off the ground.

“Well, that was that,” I informed my very patient wife. “We fought hard, but it just wasn’t meant to happen tonight. Hey, 3-1 and first in the East ain’t so bad, huh? Those Cowchips did us a favor by beating the Eagles.” The Missus addressed my astute insight with a yawn. It was now near midnight and I started to summarize my game notes and evaluate the Redskins’ performance.

At this point, I’m singing “Just Once” by James Ingram: “I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough…”

Before I decided to retire, I decided to watch my recording of the 7:30 PM NFL Primetime. The benevolent wife agreed with the continuing of the late football smorgasbord…if I’d rub her feet. Using my internal Husband Calculator (which computes two birds, one stone into 5000 different situations), I agreed to the offer.

Chris Berman and Tom Jackson ran through the scores and highlights, and in my increasing drowsiness and foot rubbing I’d missed the Redskins game results on the sports ticker. The Skins/Broncos game highlight began, and eventually Brunell was sacked for a nine yard loss. “But wait! Ooh, Tom, there was a defensive holding call!” bellowed Berman.

I jumped up, throwing my wife’s feet off my lap, and paused the recording. “Did you see that?” I asked my wife’s direction. “The game wasn’t over then! Great Scott, we could have still won!” In an instant, I was teleported back twenty minutes, and I resumed sweating. Never before had I cared so much about an ESPN highlight show.

Berman continued “Now with 1:15 left, Brunell from the Denver 11…touchdown to Chris Cooley!” I paused the show and went bonkers, proclaiming the genius of Gibbs, Brunell, and, for good measure, George Allen. “I don’t believe it! We have a team! Undefeated!” I explained to the spot on the couch where my wife used to be.

We all know what happened next. The next play showed Brunell’s errant two-point conversion to David Patten that effectively ended the game.

And there I silently sat, hoarse, dejected, and ten seconds from marital discord.

It’s obviously my mother-in-law’s fault.

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