Sure, there was a time when football was about football – two teams, lightly padded in different colors, facing off man-to-man on a patch of grass, tossing an overgrown almond back and forth. Every once in a while there’s a little self-serving victory jig, but for the most part, it’s about the game. Throw, catch, run, hit. Football was about football. Game. Competition. Sport. Football was 100% about football.
That must have been...what? The 1960s?
But it’s not about football anymore. Now, football is only 1% about the game, and 99% about all the other “stuff” that goes on around it. Sports gambling. The office pool. Side bets. NFL fantasy leagues. Football is a sport alright, but the real fun and games is off the field.
Let’s start with the fantasy league.
Guys love fantasy.
Obviously there’s that fantasy – the kind that arrives in the mail in plastic overwrap with a piece of paper printed with name and mailing address, perfectly placed so it exposes just enough cleavage. One hundred and ninety gloriously glossy pages of full technicolor airbrushed, uh, articles. That’s fantasy.
But there is other fantasy, too. A whole phantasmagorical series of rockets and robots and extraordinarily endowed, round-eyed ageless girls in leather boots or sailor suits whose martial artistry would give Bruce Lee a shameful hard-on, is Japanime. There are book series with volumes that number in the tens and twenties by authors of whom I’ve never heard, but utter a title in the presence of someone who’s into it, and suddenly they’re brothers in some secret skeleton key society. Playstation, Xbox, and Gamecube? Those are all sophisticated versions of the fantastical wizardry at its finest, Dungeons and Dragons. I never understood guys’, uh, fascination? with this type of fantasy because I don’t have brothers and the only “magazines” my Dad ever got in the mail were full-color glossy annual reports and catalogs from Callaway.
(My apologies for dedicating an entire paragraph to anime and sci-fi, as it seems this “food blog,” like football, isn’t 100% about food, but writing about Dungeons and Dragonball Z saves me from very real, very expensive therapy.)
Now, fantasy plays in a whole ‘nother league. If you know anyone who is remotely interested in sports (in The Delicious Life, this would be my brother in law Jimmy), then you’ve probably heard him talk about his fantasy league, and no, it has absolutely nothing to do with women, though when I think about it, this whole fantasy thing sounds exactly like women and clothes shopping (you’ll see). It’s a fantasy NFL league. Or NBA league. Or...I don’t know, maybe they have fantasy hockey, too, although, I wouldn’t bet on it. Ooh, ouch. That stings. LOL!
It starts long before the actual season begins. (See? We shop for pretty wispy Diane Von Furstenburg dresses in winter and warm, fuzzy Michale Kors boots in spring, and if you live in LA, you wear Uggs and shop for hookers-on-stilettos sandals year round).You have to join a fantasy league, and more often than not, you’re corralling all your friends into one league to play against each other because it’s just so much more fun to fight with your friends (Ohmigawd! The parallel is too much!). There’s a fantasy draft, when everyone goes online at the exact same time sending the fantasy servers into some sort of techno-sports pandemonium, and you and your friends start picking players for teams. I swear this fantasy thing for guys has deep-rooted psychologicial implications that have something to do with their own insufficiencies in sports. They were always the penultimate pick for kickball, which is really no better than last, and this is their adult-life “Who’s team captain now, sucka?!” retribution. Whatever helps them get over it, I guess.
Through the season, they follow the real players’ stats, which are applied to their virtual fantasy players, and this is why they watch the games. They skip back and forth from TV screen to computer screen to check on how they’re doing in the fantasy league. They don’t care about the game! They care about who’s rushing the most yards and which unlucky sucker haha actually drafted the QB who’s getting sacked left and right! Without a football game, guys would still be online, but they’d be shopping at Bluefly. LOL!
And of course, football is about gaming – not “the game,” but gambling. Sure, there are those career professionals (we don’t use the term “addict” around here) who bet with beaucoup bucks in Sin City, but if you’ve got a regular corporate job, you jump into a harmless little office pool. I don’t work in an office now, but when I did, I used to get those quarterly emails blasts from Hoawrd over in Accounts Receviable, just like you do, too. The subject was always an overly enthusiastic “Guess what season it is?!?!” that cyber-reeked of Howard’s hot, raw onion and tuna salad-for-lunch that his wife makes for him every day. I don’t open the email that “invites” everyone to play, but really, insinuates that if I don’t play along I’m some horrible anti company culture-building mutineer who will have to walk the plank to the lonely 12th floor breakroom during lunch to avoid the contemptuous stares from co-worker “in” clique in the lively main floor lunch room. I don’t want to dump my hard-earned, two-week’s $20 paycheck into your pool just so lucky son of a bitch Brian from IT will win because he’s an IT geek, which means he was picked last for kickball and instead of answering help-desk tickets about blue screens and application installations, he plays fantasy football in the server room all day long. Yeah, and if you guys win the Mega Millions, too, I don’t care. I’ll just be eating my burrito on the 12th floor.
I’m not a betting type of girl, but thank God that someone talked me into it for the big game, otherwise I would have gotten up and started foldi
ng my laundry or plucking my eyebrows into an allergic reaction or re-organizing my spice rack by color or something – anything – more exciting than the game. Strangely enough, all of my predicions, which were based on a very scientific, statistics-based study of who has the hotter quarterback, were accurate. The only wager I didn’t win regarded the Burger King scoring a touchdown, which we called a draw because who would have predicted that Brooke Burke in hamburger bun would be more lame than ex-Mrs. Lachey peddling pizza?!?!
The other one of my predictions that was off was...nachos. Back when the season started, I was sure that I’d be clad in my high school cheerleading uniform tackling a pile of tortilla chips draped with melted cheese and padded with every artery-clogging ingredient in a Mexican pantry – refried beans, guacamole, sour cream. Tex-Mex nachos are the ultimate gameday food, and yet during the Rose Bowl I wimped out by picking at sushi, and for the Super Bowl, well, I did better with something like nachos, but not nachos. They’re pita-chos, made with Mediterranean Diet equivalents of Mexican belly-busters. (Trademark alert! Don’t steal my idea! Pita-chos are mine, and I made them long before I ever saw Rachael Ray making her naan-chos, so take that!)
Oh well. Thank God football season is over. I can go back to being a stupid girl again. And how much you want to bet I won’t touch another Miller Lite? At least until October. ;)
Cut each pita loaf into 6-8 wedges to make pita chips. These can be deep-fried (store-bought pita chips are usually fried), but I girl-ed out by brushing them with olive oil, sprinkling with a little Kosher salt, and baking them in 350 degree oven. I guess I could have baked pita bread, too, but wtf? I'm not Ina Garten.
Place pita chips on a plate. Top with hummus (in place of refried beans), baba ghanouj (roasted eggplant dip instead of salsa), tzatziki or other yogurt dip (instead of sour cream), grilled lemon/garlic/oregano chicken (instead of Mexican-spiced fajita-style chicken), feta cheese (in place of regular nacho Jack cheese), chopped tomatoes, artichoke hearts, red onions, and Greek olives (instead of plain black olives). Ack! Ultimate girl alert! Garnish with flat leaf parsley (instead of cilantro).
There are simple instructions for hummus here, about halfway down, next to the photo of my friend Mike at the Hollywood Bowl shrieking about how good it is.
Sarah's Baba Ghanouj
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Slice in half, lengthwise, two large, heavy regular purple eggplants. Brush the cut sides with olive oil, then place face down on a baking sheet and roast for about 40-45 minutes until the skins are dark and the flesh is as soft as butter. Remove from oven and cool until you can handle it.
Scoop the eggplant pulp from the skins into a fine mesh sieve and let sit for 20 minutes to let excess liquid drain out. Of course, if you’re impatient like me, you can just press down gently on the eggplant with the back of a spoon to squeeze the liquid out.
Hell, whom am I kidding? I just grabbed that eggplant by my bare hands and squeezed it over the sink.
Pulse 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic in food processor until minced. Add squozen (is that a word?) eggplant, 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp tahini, juice of 1 lemon, ½ tsp salt (add more later to taste) and puree until it reaches the desired consistency.
I also added a pinch of cumin to add more “roasted” flavor.
Serve with toasted pita bread.