By: Chris Dagonas
Twenty-five squares, filled with all manner of possible football events; penalties, completions, sacks, interceptions. Plus, all sorts of possible commercials; Pepsi, Budweiser, Chevrolet.
Twenty-five squares filled with hope.
Oh, also, there was a football contest.
I had some friends over for a Super Bowl Party on Sunday. There was a baby there. We played Squares. We guessed the score total. We ate chicken wings and drank beer. And, most importantly, we played Super Bowl Bingo.
I’ll assume you know what bingo is. Here’s a picture to remind you.
It started with the free square. Everyone got that one, circled it, put an X on it, whatever.
The coin flip was the first major event. My card had heads. Tails won. I was immediately behind, cursing my bad luck, sadly stuffing Tostitos and salsa into my mouth.
Some innocuous events started getting checked off early on; punts, fair catches, first downs. I also got to gleefully cross off “interception”, as Tom Brady threw directly into Jeremy Lane’s waiting hands. Lane brought the ball out of the end zone, but was injured on the play. He was replaced by Tharold Simon, who played great as a replacement until he couldn’t find Julian Edelman at all most of the second half.
The event that started my eventual winning column was a receiving touchdown, and it didn’t happen until early in the second quarter. The first quarter was scoreless, but not dull, as both teams seemed able to move the ball to some degree. Tom Brady found Brandon LaFell in the end zone. LaFell was one of four different Patriots to catch a touchdown, testament to the excellent pass distribution of Tom Brady and the Patriots. That was the first lead change of the game, but far from the last. The ball appeared to be correctly inflated.
The Seahawks helped me cross off rushing touchdown when Skittles-enthusiast Marshawn Lynch ambled three yards in to tie the score at 7-7 midway through the second quarter.
My card included a 35+ yard completion, and I figured if anyone would get that, it would be Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski catching a short pass and bulldozing everything in his path, destroying the stadium like a reverse Hines Ward in “The Dark Knight Rises”. I did not expect it to be former Winnipeg Blue Bomber, current Seattle Seahawk, Chris Matthews. He won the 2012 Most Outstanding Rookie award in the CFL. More recently, he worked at a Foot Locker. In the long line of Super Bowl heroes-from-nowhere, Chris Matthews is a worthy torch holder. His long catch had me working on a potential winning row in the second quarter.
Budweiser and Chevrolet commercials in the second half had me one event away from a winning column. I was hoping for a pass interference, and if this season has taught me anything, that was far from a sure thing. There were 215 defensive pass interference calls this past season, way down from 247 in 2013 and 253 in 2012, according to NFL Penalties.com. Referees have allowed a lot more grabbing and nudging this season, so I was a little nervous as the fourth quarter started and I had still not seen one pass interference call.
The pass interference that eventually was called, the one that sealed my destiny as a champion, was not one I was expecting, and it almost precluded the winning drive. Wide receiver Danny Amendola illegally tried to create space, and it turned a 2nd-and-1 to a 2nd-and-11. Luckily, Tom Brady’s tight end is a giant metallic lion, uh, no, sorry, that’s Gronkowski, and the next play covered 20 yards between the two of them and erased the penalty altogether. The Patriots went on to score the touchdown that gave them the lead for good later on that same drive.
I had fumbles on my card. Ha. The New England Patriots never fumble. They never fumble so much that the death grips they apply to footballs, in order to avoid coach Bill Belichick’s wrath and a permanent bench spot, may have been responsible for creating under-inflated footballs in the AFC championship game. Is that a likely possibility? Probably not. But it’s more credible than a lot of other crazy conspiracy theories floating out there. Suffice it to say that the Patriots are the least likely team in the league to fumble the football. The Seahawks have Lynch, who is not really human and lacks the ability to have his arms and hands fail him. I might as well have erased that square off my bingo card and replaced it with “Hole-In-One”. It was never gonna happen.
Whither the horse collar tackle penalty? Have NFL defensive players been given free reigns (Get it? Horse collar? Reigns?) to tackle by the neck? Are concussions the only safety issue the league “cares” about? I don’t want to watch an NFL where ball carriers are subject to being forced violently out of bounds, or to the ground, the way a horse wrangler might to do a wild horse that is about to get a first down. I demand to see horse collar tackle calls increased by at least 3000 percent.
Oh, concussions. There was no square for concussions on my card. That is not something to be cheered for. If it was, it would have been crossed off when Seahawk linebacker Cliff Avril went to the locker room early in the third quarter. Later in the game,
Julian Edelman NOBODY ELSE suffered a concussion. I mean, everyone gets up slowly and wobbly on the football field sometimes. And anyone could get Seattle and St. Louis mixed up, especially after preparing to play Seattle for two weeks and having hundreds of questions directed at you about SEATTLE. So, no, according to various reports, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman did not suffer a concussion.
And hey, he caught that winning pass, didn’t he. Go PATS!
There was also no spot on my card for heart-crushing turns of events. First, Jermaine “Curse” Kearse caught an absolutely unbelievable pass that bounced off his hands, arms, legs, and back into his hands. That set the Seahawks up, down 4 points, at the five-yard line with less than two minutes remaining.
You know what happened next. Lynch ran the ball to the 1, then Pete Carroll’s head exploded like that guy in Scanners, and he called a pass play. Never mind that the Seahawks scored on a 3-yard pass play earlier in the game, or that short passes like that are successful about 67 percent of the time. Never mind that interceptions happen around 5 percent of the time. That specific play resulted in an interception, so therefore it was moronic, even to people who know nothing about football. Result-based thinking is so far beneath coaches like Carroll and Belichick, they shouldn’t even have to address it.
Also fun was the Seahawks players trying to fight the Patriots after the first kneel down. Seriously, grow up and accept the loss.
In the end, My Super Bowl Bingo game was a big success. Everyone paid attention to the game, and the women-folk even learned a few new rules they didn’t know before [Ed. Note: He went there!]. My seven-minute horse collar rant was the longest drive of the first quarter. I lost on my squares board on every quarter, but my Bingo win left me up 10 dollars.
I also lost a five-dollar bet with my father-in-law. He called early in the first quarter, asking if I wanted to pick Seattle against his New England. I took the bet, mostly to make him happy, and also mostly because I’m afraid of him. But that loss still left me up five dollars.
Don’t forget the baby. He didn’t win his bingo card. He didn’t win at squares. His point total, chosen by his mom, was ridiculously low. He left greasy hand marks all over our mirrored closet doors, he drooled on our carpet, but he did not crap his pants through three and four-fifths quarters.
Then, with three minutes left in the fourth, he crapped his pants.
Damn. Now I know how Russell Wilson must have felt.
At least I’ll always have my Bingo victory.