WASHINGTON — I know that some wives enjoy watching televised sporting events. But I know this only through indirect evidence, the way I know, for example, that some people eat camel meat. In my house, sporting events are watched alone.
A few weeks ago, I tried an experiment. The hypothesis was that if a man can persuade his wife to sit still in front of the TV for three hours, he can persuade her to appreciate the excitement, athleticism and strategic complexity that is a professional football game. My wife agreed to try. On that day, the Washington Redskins were playing my team, the New York Giants.
Things did not go well.
Me: This is a crucial fourth-and-short situation. The Giants can go for it or kick a field goal. From this distance, the field goal is practically a gimme, but it's only three points. So there's a complicated strategic and philosophical calculus for the coach: If they try for a first down and fail, they have to turn over the ball to the Redskins, which would totally reverse the game's momentum.
My wife: Why are the Giants wearing pink sneakers?
Me: They're not. Whoa, they're going for it!
My wife: Well, they look pink.
Me: Arrrgggghhhhh! He was held for no gain!!
My wife: Fuchsia, really.
Me: IT'S AN OLD TV SET. THE COLOR IS SCREWED UP.
My wife: Why are you yelling at me?
And so forth. By halftime, the experiment was in shambles. It had been my fault, I decided — I hadn't come to the game well enough prepared. So we tried it again the following week, for a Sunday night game between the Giants and the Cowboys. This time, I did a lot of research. I was seeking very specific sorts of information.
And so, when Giants tailback Brandon Jacobs shook off tacklers for 6 yards and a first down, I did not explain that he's surprisingly agile for a big man, having gained at least 10 yards on 12.9 percent of his carries, which is the 13th-highest percentage of any running back in the NFL. Instead, I said:
"A couple of years ago, after scoring a touchdown, Jacobs tucked the football under the front of his jersey as a tribute to his pregnant wife."
My wife: Aww.
Me: The NFL penalized the team 15 yards and fined him $5,000.
My wife: That's so unfair!
Me: I know! By the way, he changes the baby's diapers himself.
My wife: Well, he should.
Me: I know! But still. Did I mention he has two puppies?
(Things were looking up!)
Me: See that fat guy on the Giants? Number 76? He's married to the head coach's daughter.
My wife: I guess he can't go home and grumble about what an (rhymes with "grass knoll") the coach is.
Me: Right! See that guy lining up to kick a field goal for the Giants? That's Lawrence Tynes. His brother is serving a 27-year prison sentence for trafficking in marijuana.
My wife: For marijuana? That's ridiculous!
Me: Tynes petitioned the Bush administration for clemency for his brother, but it was turned down, which is interesting since W. (pointing) is sitting right there at the game!
My wife: Grrr.
Me: . . . And he's cheering for the Cowboys!
Together we rooted for Lawrence, and he put the Giants ahead.
Things couldn't have been going much better, but then something tragic happened. Just as I reached the end of my list of humanizing facts, a great football game broke out. Fistfights occurred. Shoulders separated. Anterior cruciate ligaments got stretched. As injured players began limping off the field, my wife discovered things she absolutely had to do at that moment, including, I swear, scrubbing the kitchen floor.
Eventually, she went to bed, which is where she was at 11:46 p.m. when Tynes kicked a field goal with no time on the clock to give the Giants a thrilling 2-point win. I'm sure that somewhere, someone's wife was watching. And somewhere, someone was probably eating camel meat.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.