Before you judge me — and you will judge me based on what’s to follow — I ask only that you understand that no one is more regretful about my recent conduct than I am.
Were I a better person, I would have watched the Super Bowl at a local bar or, better yet, at home, surrounded by my loving family. But that wasn’t good enough for Daddy Selfish Pants, was it? When lightning struck and my two favorite teams advanced to the Super Bowl, I needed to be part of it. I had no desire to attend the actual game, not for $5,000 to $10,000. At heart, I am a sensible soul who takes seriously his fiduciary limitations. But I needed to be in Arizona with my two tribes. I foresaw the titanic battle that came to pass.
Except that as soon as my plane lifted off last Thursday, I knew I’d messed up. I was leaving behind my lovely wife, Leigh, and my lovely daughters, Miranda and Lily, just as another winter storm was closing in. I would be missing Lily’s dance competition on Saturday. I would not be there to help Leigh look for Miranda’s missing purse, or to walk our dogs, or to call the repair guy to fix the downstairs water heater. On a professional level, I would not be around to report on matters of civic import such as the crime wave sweeping Destiny USA.
And for what? To watch a stupid football game at a bar 2,500 miles away, in Arizona? Didn’t we have a perfectly suitable Phoenix just up the road?
For the first time in my life, it hit me: I’m a douche.
Even my pal C.P., a fellow sportsman/layabout who had graciously driven from Southern California to Phoenix to abet my hedonism, could not cheer me. Together we roamed from bar to bar, hobnobbing with fellow fans and drinking margaritas the size of fish bowls. The clouds parted and the temperatures pushed into the delightful mid-60s.
I rented a bike. Still, I couldn’t shake the self-loathing.
I kept flashing back to a chat I’d had with my youngest daughter, Lily, on Jan. 18 — her 12th, or was it 13th, birthday? I’d assured her that it wasn’t her fault that her birthday was the same day as the two NFL conference championship games, which featured my hometown Seattle Seahawks and my beloved New England Patriots. It was her mother’s fault.
Without consulting the NFL schedule, Mommy had agreed to have labor induced rather than risk the chance that her regular doctor would be on vacation when Lily wanted to escape the “dark, scary place.” If nature had been allowed to run its course, I explained to Lily, she would have been born during the meaningless two weeks of Super Bowl hype, which would have been awesome. Instead, because of Mommy’s inattention to detail, Lily’s birthday always came at the worst time imaginable: on or near Championship Weekend.
Lily listened attentively but said nothing. It wasn’t my best parenting moment.
And so the bill for my selfish stupidity came due in the desert.Whether I was high-fiving fans of both teams in the downtown Super Bowl party zone, attending a Phoenix Suns game, getting reacquainted with nationally acclaimed Pizzeria Bianco or flirting with the Miller Lite girls at a Tempe sports bar, I felt really guilty.
My Swiss-like neutrality on the Super Bowl only deepened my sense of being a fraud. I wore Syracuse gear until the game ended. Then I joyfully donned my Patriots hat and wept for the Seahawks, but mostly I wept for my utter lack of substance.
And I vowed to be better.
On the plane ride home Tuesday, as the kids were returning to school after another snow day, I resolved to stop running and put family first. For example, I won’t even consider attending the Boston Red Sox home opener at 3:05 p.m., April 13, against the Washington Nationals, although I just checked the prices and actually they don’t look that bad.
It’s good to be home.