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Super Bowl Sunday: Making the Team

February 4, 2011

I’m one of those girls who never played team sports. The Super Bowl is coming to my new hometown this weekend, and I could very easily write a post like The New York Times’s Melissa Clark,who, on Sunday, will be having a tea party with crumpets, marmalade and clotted cream—a militantly anti-Super Bowl party if there ever was one. But I’m game for the Super Bowl. I may never have played team sports, but I do have a team—my new family and new city. I’m baking on Sunday, but I am not having a tea party. For the first time in my life, I’ll be part of Super Bowl Sunday.

I don’t score high in sports knowledge. Ballet, swimming, yoga, running, hiking—these are the things I’ve been drawn to. I once asked innocently how someone could be described as “fast, but not quick,” and was given a serious and careful lesson in sports distinctions by a seventeen-year-old football player. I have at least been enlightened on that point.

Like Ms. Clark, I know a whole lot more about baking and tea parties. Some might argue that baking has sports-like aspects. I’ve gotten up early to have fresh sourdough English muffins puffing on a griddle by breakfast time. I’ve stirred batches of blackberry jam with hands scratched by bramble thorns. I’ve sweated over my bread kneading technique and turned the holidays into a string of two- and three-a-days. Competitive baking TV shows have contestants perform speed and precision drills: How many perfect pie crusts can you roll out in five minutes? How quickly can you separate two dozen eggs? There’s heat and pressure and competition. But it’s not a team thing. The shows sometimes throw in team challenges, but these tend to be treated as handicaps. When you bake, the feeling of togetherness comes from sharing what’s just come out of the oven. Often, the only competition is for that last dollop of pastry cream.

So baking is not really a sport, and I am a baker, not a sports person. Ms. Clark presents the two as mutually exclusive. Her crumpets and clotted cream may look soft and pillowy, but the statement they’re making has a sting. By inviting her “football-averse comrades” to join in a Super Bowl boycott, Ms. Clark is waging a war against sports, using food. (This will not be the first time a tea party serves as an outlet for sore feelings.) You’re either on her team or you’re not, and to be on her team means to reject the Super Bowl. But I don’t know where to position myself, then. I see no need for food to become such a battleground, with sports people lobbing guacamole and cheese dip on one side, and non-sports people archly eating crumpets in protest on the other.

It doesn’t seem to me that this is what the Super Bowl is about at all. Sports are about teams. Food is about sharing. When people come together over food and sports, something is shared that’s more than the ingredients or the score.

The key lime pie I make on Sunday will be tart and tangy, but it will mean something quite different from the tea party crumpets and cream, with their hidden bite. It will not be a form of resistance or sabotage or opting out. I won’t have become a rabid sports fan overnight. I will still have no idea what’s happening on the screen. But my pie and I will be part of the team that’s watching the athletes do what they do. For me, this is a new and thrilling sense of team—one that can include me, the non-sports-playing baker, who will probably be talking about lime curd by halftime.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2011 3:31 pm

    I wanna be on your team, k?

    • February 5, 2011 8:52 am

      How are you folks celebrating Super Bowl Sunday?

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