Denver Broncos' Brandon McManus (8) holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Broncos defeated the Carolina Pathers in the NFL's Super Bowl 50 football game in Santa Clara, California February 7, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One of the greatest gifts parents can bestow on their children is the ability to distinguish the wheat from the chaff, the consequential from the inconsequential, the holy from the mundane.
Not only to distinguish between the two, but to give primacy to the former over the later, to chose and devote one’s time to the important rather than the unimportant.
It was, therefore, with a tinge of guilt that I convinced my youngest son to take leave of the yeshiva where he is studying and come home Sunday for a long night to watch the Super Bowl with his dad, essentially encouraging him to pick Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning over Rashi.
And I did this with only a tinge of guilt – not a full dose – because this was not just any Super Bowl, this was Super Bowl 50, the one that featured our beloved Denver Broncos.
Or, more precisely, my beloved Denver Broncos.
I have tried, with only varying degrees of success, to instill in my Israeli-born children an appreciation of some of the values and cultural markers I grew up on in America: tolerance, a Protestant work ethic, Mexican food, the Denver Broncos – especially the Denver Broncos.
I was raised on the Denver Broncos. I learned to curse watching the Denver Broncos.
Some of my fondest memories with my father were spent schlepping out in the freezing – and I mean freezing cold weather – to watch the Broncos lose at Denver’s Mile High Stadium.
And they always lost.
The Broncos began in the old AFL in 1960, and were horrible – but I mean horrible – through my entire youth. I was 17 when they enjoyed their first winning season, and had left home for college the first year they went to the Super Bowl (and lost). I suffered in person through the lean years, but – and here’s the rub – celebrated in absentia the good ones.
And it wasn’t always easy following them from a distance, over here in Israel.
In the pre-Internet days I would save those expensive long distance phone calls home once a month for Mondays so I could find out who won the Sunday game. One reason I thought myself so lucky in the mid-1980s to have landed a job at The Jerusalem Post was because it provided access to the wire services and I could get scores immediately, and not have to wait until they were printed in Tuesday’s paper.
And watching the games? Forget about it. Maybe via a video tape someone brought weeks later, or – when the Broncos got into the Super Bowl, which they did a lot once I left Denver – by paying a bunch of money at a Jerusalem locale to see the game off a pirated US Armed Forces feed.
But I was determined to say connected: “You can take the boy out of Denver, but you can’t take the Broncos out of the boy,” and all that.
I’m convinced that this stubborn resoluteness to continue following the team – despite the distance and the completely different reality which I have chosen for myself and my family – was partly a subconscious effort to hold on to my past: to something very familiar, to the security of sitting in a cold stadium, or in the warmth of my childhood home, watching football with my dad.
And urging my Sabra son to come home from the yeshiva and watch the game with me was the latest in a continuous effort to pass that same experience on to him.
And, to some degree, it has worked. Though still more fond of Israeli basketball than American football, my children have “gotten into” the Broncos to a certain degree.
They enjoy watching the big games with me, or so they say.
And since I tore my son away from yeshiva to watch the Super Bowl, I felt compelled to find some value – some worth – in what we were watching.
Otherwise it would just be “bitul zman,” yeshiva lingo for a complete waste of time.
As the Broncos defense stymied the high-powered Carolina offense, I moralized about how it was not only the flashy offensive giant who wins, but rather often the hard-working grunt on defense who ends up victorious.
And I spoke of how emotion is important. I explained that while Denver was far outclassed on paper – and how by comparing just the dry metrics Denver should easily have been defeated – the dry metrics couldn’t measure that great imponderable: heart.
And heart is what powered Denver, an out-matched team playing with great emotion so its legendary quarterback could ride into retirement as a winner.
My son listened. Then, holding a bottle of beer and looking at me bemused from the couch, he said, “Abba, forget the nonsense. Just enjoy the game.”
And we did. First, because I was spared the further necessity of searching for deeper meaning in a football game.
And, second, because Denver won... big time.