The Musburger Effect

When did my kids turn into Brent Musburger?
I remember watching him, albeit briefly, in the 70’s and 80’s doing the NFL Today, spewing out statistics that both mystified and bored me. The guy looked like the last guy in the world that one could imagine to work in football. He looked like an accountant that just showed  up on the sideline that had an encyclopedic knowledge of every player and team that had ever touched the ball. Every now and again I would hear classmates discuss the “stats” and even started dabbling myself into this activity by reading the backs of football cards. This lasted about the time it took to chew the gum that came with the pack and it became evident that this was not a task I was going to enjoy.
So when my sons started telling me about quarterback ratings this season, it was novel. Frankly I didn’t know where they were getting the information. It seems like they went from not understanding four downs to calling plays they thought would be better than those chosen by offensive coordinators. When they go to school they trade information like currency.
I understand the power in information. I also was guilty of this once when a classmate referred to me as “Ernest”, my middle name, to the enjoyment of my peers. I thought I’d get the better of him and went home and memorized all twenty-five of my classmates middle names, then used them the next day, looking for revenge. When one of them accused me of going through the roster and memorizing the names, I just denied it and fell silent.
But I still wondered about the source of my son's information.
I soon realized this was due to their many hours spent playing Madden on XBox. While I don’t care that much for videogames, I was happier about this choice then, say, “Skull Crusher” or whatever shoot’em game is popular right now. But I was hesitant, and I expressed my views. When asked if I wanted to play I just said I prefer actual games. This led my boys to embark on an almost obsessive fascination with football.
While my interest is passive at best, as I watch games for the sheer entertainment value, theirs was much more active. Soon they started sharing season records of teams, not just NFL but college as well. For NFL players they knew where they went to college and what draft pick they were.
My passive, relaxing activity became a conversation piece.
“Dad, who do you want to win?”
“I’m not sure, who’s playing?”
“Notre Dame and Michigan.”
“Oh, I don’t think I care.”
“So maybe Michigan?”
“Why, you don’t like the Notre Dame quarterback?”
“Actually, I really don’t care.”
Confused look from son, “then why are you watching?”
This conversation has been replayed infinite times throughout the season, and I have become much more defensive, often yelling “I don’t care” before the questions even start. Even games I may care about I have chosen not to, just to make a stand.
Thankfully this is coming to head as the season draws to an end. The only thing that stands between me and the end of factual recitations is the Super Bowl. I’m sure I will have to sit through discussions about the colleges players went to, who will be playing for whom next year and maybe even the names of the pets that the players have. I am reminded of the William Shatner skit on Saturday Night Live when someone at a Star Trek convention asked him if he had six or seven prize horses at this farm. Shatner’s response: “Get a life.”

If I could say this to my sons without guilt, I probably would, but it just seems so harsh, so I’ll sit through the Superbowl and listen to interesting facts about players I’ve never heard of, and probably take a side, just to appease my boys and share in their enthusiasm about the sport, because that really is what this is about. And I do secretly admire how much information they’ve managed to process.