This weekend, my dad and I watched the Superbowl commercials together. We also stuck around for the game plays between them. Brute strength and testosterone-saturated determination flowed onto the field as Green Bay and Pittsburgh leveled their gazes at each other over the line, waiting for the first snap to launch the biggest game of the year. In the first quarter, Kaplan reported to me from the Dallas stadium that Pittsburgh was going to win. It didn’t appear that Green Bay had been notified.
As Dad and I huddled over our hot bowls of homemade vegetarian chili, we analyzed the players, the calls, and the coaches. Green Bay deferred the coin toss. It wasn’t apparent until the second half, to me, why that made sense. They got to launch into the second half with the advantage of playing the offensive line. Generosity can be strategic, I suppose. Another thing Dad pointed out immediately was the first set of impromptu interviews. The guy from the Steelers said they were focused on winning, the Green Bay guy said they were focused on playing a strong game. Dad decided at that moment, before the generous coin toss gesture, that Green Bay had won the game. My dad is profound in his wisdom at the most unpredictable times.
In our expert analysis of the game, one thing became clear to me: Men and women are like running backs and quarterbacks. After a few moments pondering the concept, Dad quickly agreed.
The game is simple. Quarterback puts the ball in the hands of a running back. The running back puts the ball in the end zone. Six points. Do it more often than the other team, proceed to the showers then go out to celebrate. A team that works in a few additional points through skilled field goals, touch backs, and safeties over the course of a season might get big shiny rings to write home about.
If women can learn to be quarterbacks, and men can learn to watch them like running backs do, men and women might score a few more relational touchdowns and reasons to celebrate.
I’ve noticed that men prefer communication when it’s delivered like a straight spiraling pigskin, nailing the big numbers. Wobbly, overshot, or trick throws rarely result in touchdowns. Running backs who are awarded the honor of being an MVP watch their quarterbacks like hawks on prey and prepare themselves to receive the opportunity to score some points. Awesome quarterbacks put the ball in a running back’s hands, delivered with stealth accuracy and speed. Roundabout plays with surprise twists can strip well-positioned, well-conditioned running backs the chance to blaze into six points of glory. The entire team, an athlete’s family, wins and loses together.
Ladies, it may be that we’re playing chess while the men are desperately trying to figure out where the football fits on the game board. Dad, in his weathered wisdom, assured me that most men are willing to do nearly anything necessary to run the ball into the end zone and put some points up on the board. They simply need to be told with spiraling pigskin directness what those necessary things are. Ironically, knowing what to do without explicit instruction is one of the most desired qualities so many of us women crave in men. We want them to pay attention, think ahead, know their roles, and play their positions with excellence and skill. They want us to throw the ball to them.
Dad said the Steelers’ quarterback was playing possum with his “bum” knee during the game. I’m convinced that he probably is better at Hail Mary and short, direct passes than at running the ball through the line, but that’s what he did even with his failing knee given the opportunity. The most celebrated moments of the game were when quarterback and running back connected. Crowds rose up, coaches cheered, coaches cursed, and tensions over wagers mounted over the most beautifully executed plays.
I prefer the intellectual nature of chess, but no one pays a million dollars to air 15 second commercials between queen and pawn moves at the World Chess Championship. There’s something unexplainable and captivating about the lure of a 100 yard field, drenched in testosterone, that draws us all to together as a nation. We cheer with passion when quarterback and running back connect, communicate, and score six big ones.
I’m not throwing in the terrible towel on relationships yet. As long as there is football, there will be a playbook on the male mind. And, all I have to do is practice nailing the numbers.