Super Bowl IXVII

Once an enthusiastic sports fan Ken can no longer follow any game.  Alzheimer’s has robbed him of memory.


February 8, 2013 – Before Alzheimer’s and even a few years into the disease Ken was a sports’ nut, and has been all of his life.   I suppose I could just say “Fan” instead of nut which might be considered a more polite term, but the word fan is taken from fanatic, and Ken was fanatic about sports, so for me “nut” is definately appropriate.

I was a sports’ nut too, but only when any one of our children were involved.  It wasn’t as though I didn’t understand the rules of just about all sporting events; I did.  Furthermore, as a youth I was rather athletically inclined and participated in whatever games were scheduled in my P.E. classes during my school years. Everything except, of course, football, which I quickly learned having been afflicted with a mad crush on our team’s quarterback. 


If Ken had been loyal to one team I could have been more understanding and possibly even interested, but it was the activity itself which captivated him: sports in general.  He could be engulfed for hours on end until a whole Saturday was gone and the lawn remained uncut.  It was his obsessiveness that I found so irritating.  So much time and energy wasted in front of the TV, especially during football season, and that’s not to mention the finals and Super Bowl Sunday.  However, as Alzheimer’s took over his life, and all of his interests faded away I would have offered the moon in exchange for his enthusiastic cries or outraged shouts at a missed call by one of the officials.


Nevertheless, over the years I did develop sports’ burnout.  I believe my sister Janet had the same problem with her husband Douglas. “No one pays to watch me work,” she would facetiously remark as the men gathered in front of the TV to shout, cheer, munch on chips ‘n dip and drink beer.  It seemed as if world peace hung in the balance as to which team won the game.  Janet suffered so severely from burnout that following Douglas’ passing (not from Alzheimer’s but from cancer) she banned all sports from her TV forever and always.  Excessive?  Probably, but understandable from that wife’s point of view.


The week before the big game between San Francisco and Baltimore Facebook buzzed with anticipation especially from local folks or friends and relatives who had moved far away from the city by the Golden Gate.  Living in the East Bay from S.F., I was untouched by the excitement giving the comments I read an “Oh Hum” attitude.  “The game won’t be on at my house,” people heard me say.

I needed to stop by my friend Jayne’s house for a few minutes before the game which was soon to begin.  Forty minutes later, with me paying no attention to football sounds in the background, Jayne said, “Sorry,” following two touchdowns by the Ravens, “it’s time for you to go home.  My guys aren’t doing well.”


At home I checked my email and Facebook to see if there were messages only to find the 49ers losing.  Suddenly, I felt a touch of loyalty thinking of Ken, and how he would be cheering for the home team.  Perhaps, I thought, if in my burnout I watched at least the second half I might bring them luck.

Somewhere after my burnout and Alzheimer’s erasing Ken’s memories of his favorite game I suppose I had become as unreasonable as Janet about sports and TV.  That Sunday afternoon, for the first time in years, I tuned in a football game:  The Super Bowl.  Pulling up a stool next to Ken I settled in to watch and listen to the roar of the crowd as sight and sound filled the room.

With the progression of Ken’s Alzheimer’s through the years I would have never eliminated sports from his activities.  In fact I actually looked forward to any sporting event for him to watch as he had lost so many other interests. “Look, I often called to him as he wandered through the house, “there’s a ball game on.”  For a few minutes my husband looked at the screen, and then either a commercial appeared and confused him, or he would get up and leave telling me, “This is the same game they played yesterday.”


The second half of the Super Bowl was respectable, but our team didn’t win.  With 30 minutes left in the game I found myself enthusiastic and interested, even holding my breath at the 49ers’ last goal-line efforts for the needed touchdown.  I also watched Ken to see if his eyes focused on the game being played right there in front of him.  I wanted to observe and see for myself if the roar of the crowd might have nudged away some of the Alzheimer’s goop which imprisoned this good man’s mind.  I can only say, “I don’t know.”

I do know that getting Ken in bed at night is often the “telling” part of the day.  During the few minutes when I talk with him as he lay there looking up at me, these special moments appear to be the most positive time of his Alzheimer’s day. He was very chatty that Sunday evening, but still made no sense. He did not tell me how much he enjoyed the game, nor did football bring us a miracle.  He did mention something about seeing it up in the air.  Whatever that meant?  But I wondered if when I was watching the game (and not watching him) could it be that Ken may have noticed that odd-shaped ball sailing overhead on the screen?  Again, I don’t know.  Perhaps the roar of the crowd had nudged at some of those floating fragments and his brain found moments of something fondly familiar.  If so, I am glad.

With football over till fall March Madness is nearly upon us.   I will turn on a few basketball games for him to watch and hear, and I will wonder again if it brings him any pleasure.  With certainty I still won’t know what, if anything, gets past the guards at the Alzheimer’s Memory Gate, but it will be interesting to see.

Originally posted 2013-02-09 18:30:55.


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