To celebrate the first game of the NFL season tonight (Steelers 21, Titans 17 in case you were wondering) I give you my rules for watching football with friends. This is from a column I wrote years ago for the Drew University newspaper, The Acorn, but it still relevant today. Enjoy!
As I see it, there are 10 rules which, when followed, will make viewing a game with your friends so enjoyable, even I might come over. Break any of these rules, and woe to you. Here are the rules, in no particular order.
1. Don’t talk excessively on the phone to a significant other.
If you have a girlfriend or boyfriend, more power to you. If they want to watch the game with you and your friends, that is more than acceptable (see rule 7). However, you must not spend valuable game-viewing time talking to them on the phone. You can wait a few hours. If you must check in with your love, do NOT ever do it during game action. There is never a good excuse to talk on the phone while the game is going on.
2. Don’t gloat too much if your team is winning.
You are watching the game with friends. Friends. It is important to stay friends after the game is over. In order for that to happen you must not gloat if your team is beating your friend’s team. It is fine, even expected, to cheer and be happy. Some needling is perfectly acceptable, but there is a line. You must find that line for yourself, but there is a line. It is important to note that the line will change if, earlier in the game or season, your friend crossed the line in his or her behavior toward you. If that has occurred, all bets are off. Be careful about how far the taunting goes.
3. Don’t come late.
This should be a no-brainer. The game starts at 1 p.m., not 1:20. Show up on time or, better yet, show up early and get yourself emotionally prepared for the game. Showing up late without a valid reason is simply uncalled for and distracting. If your friend shows up late, I hope you will time your hello so that you do not miss a moment of the action. Once the game begins, there is no response too cold for a late arrival.
4. Don’t block the TV for any reason.
The TV is the most important object in the room. It must be treated as such. If you must get up, do not cross in front of the TV. If you must and, by must, I mean there is absolutely no other option, get down on your belly and crawl. DO NOT BLOCK THE GAME! EVER! It is never funny, and if you think it is I would recommend reassessing your sense of humor.
5. Go to the bathroom during commercials. You have two minutes. Use them wisely.
On that same subject, you should not be leaving your seat until there is an appropriate break in the action. Commercial breaks are two minutes long. This is plenty of time to take care of any business. If the game has begun before you make it back to your seat, stand by the door. Do not try to crawl over your friends or make them move. You have been neglectful and you must suffer.
6. Do not discuss other subjects.
You may need to plan a study group. You may want to tell all about the fabulous time you had the night before or that hot date you have tonight. Great! We want to hear it! (Well, maybe not the study group part.) But, for all of our sakes, wait until after the game! Don’t make us choose between your story and the game. I promise, you will lose out every time. Wait until after the game. If it must be told, it can be told during halftime.
7. No PDA!
I would think this goes without saying, but, more often than you’d think, it doesn’t. As I said earlier, if your significant other, or really close friend, wants to watch the game with you and your friends, that is fine. But there will be no cuddling. No massages. No hand holding. Nothing. You are here to watch the game, and you must never allow something to take you out of that state. Hugging after a great play is OK (chest bumping is preferred). But sustained cuddling has no place in the viewing room.
8. Switching to other games is fine…anything else is a no-no.
Commercials are becoming more and more insipid and harder to watch. Luckily, on most Sundays there are two games going on. Switching to another game is perfectly fine, but the timing must be worked out so you do not miss a moment of the action from your primary game. Many of us have mastered the art of switching back just as the commercials end and the action begins. If you must switch, do not mess up. It is akin to dropping the game-winning touchdown pass with no time left on the clock. Practice your timing.
9. If someone has a lucky seat, respect that.
I rode the left seat on my friend’s couch all the way to a Super Bowl Championship for the Patriots in 2004. During this entire period, and continuing to this day, it is understood that if I am there to watch a game, that is my seat. No one would ever challenge that. It may be the most comfortable seat in the room. Deal with it. Superstition is more important than comfort every time. I must add that it is a horrible crime to fake a lucky seat for your own personal comfort. I shudder at the thought of anyone ever being that selfish.
10. Fantasy players may not be cheered for when they’re against your team.
Look, we all have fantasy teams, and we all want them to win. Checking the box scores to see how your players do is fine. But cheering for a play against your team because it was made by a player on your fantasy team is inexcusable. DO NOT DO IT! Let’s say I am watching an Eagles-Patriots game, and I have Donovan McNabb on my fantasy team. When McNabb throws for his second TD pass of the game, I will be upset, and nothing but upset. I have been known to bench players who will be playing the Patriots in the upcoming week, thus avoiding any temptation.
And the most important rule of watching football?
Enjoy the game.