The first time I seriously attempted to comprehend what makes American football so beloved and worshipped by millions was in 2003 when the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots competed in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
I was then a first-time manager at an NYC Wall Street restaurant. Five of us, all women, including two of my bartenders, decided to participate in our first Super Bowl pool. Each square was $250, so each of us forked up $50 – a lot of money to bet on a sport when the only thing any of us understood about the game was a touchdown.
On Super Bowl Sunday, we focused on learning as much as we could before the game started. As my brother-in-law, a football aficionado explained the game’s intricacies, I mustered all my powers of concentration to memorize many confusing aspects of playing, scoring, and betting on football.
This memory came back last Saturday while watching a college football game between the UCLA Bruins and the Washington State Cougars. Like my first (futile) attempt to win a football pool, this game consumed my interest and my senses, but this time I had no monetary interest. I was purely invested in the unfolding surprises and competition of the game.
The first half was simple and one-sided. WSU dominated with a score of 49 to 17. The game was so lopsided it wasn’t much fun to watch, so my primary focus shifted to my wine—a 2016 Diora “La Petite Grace” Pinot Noir, Monterey. That’s when I noticed some striking similarities between the wine and the game. Like the game, the wine began showing its flaws – the high alcohol failed to mask the intense flavors of warm tar, aggressive, sweet dark notes of oak, and a hint of cooked blueberries. The Bruins reflected the high alcohol — with endless undirected energy — while the Cougars showed intense, aggressive control of the first half of the game. As I continued to drink, the wine perfectly reflected the current mood of the game.
My husband and I continued watching the game because with less than 10 seconds left in the first half, UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw a long pass striving for a wishful touchdown — and he almost got it. Intrigued by the action of that gutsy throw and the flickering hope that UCLA would fight for a comeback, my husband and I decided to stay tuned for the rest of the game.
Since the Diora was gone we chose an Italian wine, a 2007 Moschioni Pignolo Colli Orientali del Friuli, to start the second half of the game. I anticipated that this wine would be ready-to-drink because we had enjoyed a previous bottle that was smooth, dry, and rich in earthy notes with flavors of licorice, deeply colored blackberries, and dry avocado skins.
We opened the wine, poured half a glass for each, and decanted the rest. The game started and the wine took hold. UCLA dominated WSU in the 3rd quarter, closing the scoring gap to 46 to 49, respectively. As the teams fought for the winning score, the Pignolo fought to dominate our palate. The tight tannins, high alcohol, sharp acidity, and closed flavors were all competing for air in my mouth. I must confess, I never hated bottle variation as much as I did at this moment.
As the frantic back and forth of the offensive onslaughts in the game continued, we realized we were fighting a losing battle to stay awake and alert…exhausted not just from drinking and being gobsmacked by the Pignolo, but also from the excitement of the game unfolding in front of us. Though we didn’t finish the game, we’ve continued to wonder:
Who said wine and football don’t go together?
Photo credits: Pictame & instagyou