11/09/2009 11:29 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Go Iowa!

I remember the news reports saying that the first thing the
East Germans did was go to buy televisions.  They tied them onto the backs of their tiny Flintstone-era
cars.  A year later, when I found
myself lucky to visit Berlin, I looked for evidence of this TV-mania; I was too
young to figure it out, really, too overwhelmed by what was then only my second
stint at international travel.

I think about this as I sit in the ESPN Sports Zone,
watching a massive bank of televisions with my friend B., a rabid Yankees
fan.  (So rabid he defied his own
personal convention and got a tattoo with the logo on his calf.)  It is what turns out to be the
penultimate game of the World Series. 
“How smart they are—they’ve figured out how to make you leave the house
to watch television,” B. says.  He
is in the food business and he knows his theme restaurants well.  This is genius: Several hundred people
sitting in a giant darkened room, gazing at screens.  The former residents of East Germany would be thrilled.  There’s a personal sized screen on your
table.  The giant one in the
center, which we have been assured will be on the baseball game and not
football.  And a dozen others
surrounding it, dramatically blinking and flashing sports and more sports.  When there’s a blip on our table-top
screen, our waitress Jackie sends out a technician.

Lately, I haven’t been blogging a whole lot, because I’ve
been living life instead of recording it. 
The only time the TV gets turned on in the house is when there’s a
football game.  Namely, an Iowa
football game.  This has to do with
T. and his ardor for his alma mater; if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, I figure,
and I kind of like the habit, the belonging, anyhow.  That has a lot to do with T. and a bit to do with having
gone to a school where the only organized sport was Frisbee.

There’s an unwatched DVD from Netflix collecting dust on top
of the set, which has been reading purply pink on the edges since I picked it
up a few weeks ago for some reason I can’t remember.  Now that Iowa got beat this past weekend, my zest for
learning about college football has waned a bit.  But only a bit. I can see that it’s fun to be a fan.  From my old friend B. the Yankees
maniac and my new one T, who doesn’t have an Iowa tattoo, except in spirit.

Communal watching of the game seems fun, in its way.  A few weeks ago we went to Barney’s
Beanery in Santa Monica, where Iowa fans crammed the warren of tables and
gasped in disbelief at the last-second win against Michigan State.  As I gasped, too—not that I understand
a damned thing about football---I thought, somehow television is better when it’s
viewed in a crowd, when everyone’s tuned in simultaneously and cheering for a
shared outcome.  No wonder I can’t
turn on the TV at home, by myself; even when I force myself to, it just all
seems so passive and pale.  Still, I'm going to keep it around at least until the end of college football season.