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January 30, 2000

After a huge dinner last night, Grady called from next door and asked if I was hungry. His friend Mark was over fixing a turkey ragout, but I told him I couldn't eat another bite. So he asked me to come by later for a glass of wine. He'd been to a wine judging earlier in the week and had come home with several cases of open bottles. Since he and his friends are connoisseurs, I knew there would be something good, along with a lot of that wine talk that sounds to me like the special code language of a secret society. I used to think it was snobbish and pompous, but these people are unpretentious. They are serious about their wine, though.

So now I listen to it the same way I used to listen to my old boss from the shoe store talk about restoring engines. I know less about cars than I do about wine, so I learned the body language required for showing interest without comprehending. The nod, the head tilt, the shrug, the eyebrow raise. Sometimes I still laugh before the joke's over, but there are ways of covering even that. (By the way, "it has a good nose" is not a joke, however it might sound.)

Yes, I know, I live in the heart of wine country and should know these things. But you know what you know, and I can't pretend to care about wine more than I do about, say, baseball. Well, I can pretend, but I don't do it very well.

The wine last night was good, although I couldn't tell you what kind it was. To be polite, I tried two glasses of different varieties, staying long enough to watch the Tyson fight with them, even though I'd already heard how it ended. (Thumbnail analysis: nasty, brutish and short. Both the fight and Tyson.)

Mark and Grady have been friends forever, and Mark is very protective. Despite his mammoth size and outgoing manner, Grady has a kind of fragility about him. It's hard to describe, but it's almost as if he comes to life only when there are people around. So Mark, who has a family and a life of his own across town, has told me that he's glad I'm around and available and able to give him a hand when he needs one. And as overbearing as Grady can be, I'm happy to be useful. All it usually amounts to is carrying his groceries in from the car on days when his bad knee is acting up. (He does buy his groceries in massive quantities, though.)

Some years the Super Bowl comes close to living up to its name. This one limped along until the middle of the third quarter, with neither team doing what it does best. The Titans weren't stifling the Rams offense, and they weren't running the ball themselves. The Rams simply weren't taking advantage of all the opportunities they had to score.

Then the two teams decided to make a game of it. Without having a rooting interest in the game, I got some energy from the Titans' comeback, and the finish could not have been more wild and improbable. The Rams have good players, and they play well on both sides of the ball. They deserve to be champions, whatever you might think of their airhead carpetbagging owner. (She couldn't have built a winner in Los Angeles? Not when the folks in St. Louis virtually paid her to lose in LA, killing local fan interest.)

And why was God punishing Tennessee by taking Kurt Warner's side?

The commercials, the real show, were also mostly lackluster until late in the game. When the ads go relatively low-tech, they should at least show a little wit. Some fell completely flat, some were bizarre, and several were just pointless. Finally, the EDS "cat herder" spot and E-trade's "wazoo" commercial saved the day. It was a good day for animals, cats in particular, what with the Mountain Dew cheetah and the Bud Light tiger. Queen was everywhere, with their music taking the lead in a couple of different ads. Muhammad Ali's spot for WebMD.com was as inspirational as Christopher Reeve walking onstage for Nuveen.

As obscure as some of the ad spots were, I had no idea what was supposed to be going on during the halftime spectacle. Somehow, though, it seemed a fit setting for Phil Collins. And who is the new voice of Mickey Mouse, Yoko Ono?

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