When, in this age of technological wonder, will people stop saying of one sports spectacular or another, "Dude, I was there!" So what? Sports deliver, you know. Nobody dines in at McDonald's, and only a sucker is physically present for NFL games, with their endless TV timeouts. Football fans make up the live studio audience for a television show. And who ever scalped a ticket to a taping of Moesha? I refuse to be a human laugh track. I had a ludicrously expensive ticket to the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. To use it, I would have had to arrive at the stadium, by bus, three hours in advance, submit to the kind of security check ordinarily reserved for cocaine mules in international airports and sit stock-still in a plastic chair with all the legroom of a Delta middle seat through a ceremony slightly longer than the Oscars. Only then, perched miles above the action—on the rim of the stadium bowl, like a housefly on a toilet seat—could I have looked down to "see" Muhammad ALI light the cauldron. Yes, he would have looked like a single glowing cigarette in the night, but I could have said, just before my bladder burst, that I was there.
The best seat in the house is in the house. Specifically, in my house, where the "seat" is in fact a 6�-foot leather couch. Nobody wrestles me for the armrest, or stands in front of me for three innings, or demands that I cough up five grand for a Personal Couch License. This year, without paying a cent, I secured this seat for the World Series, the Super Bowl and the Final Four. Parking (my rear end) is no problem, beer is plentiful and reasonably priced, and I never have to wait in a Soviet bread line simply to take a leak. Without moving, I can see games from every angle, the expressions on players' faces and close plays repeated in Zapruder-like detail. When a ballgame gets boring, I can turn, for an inning, to The Simpsons. When a ballgame gets good, I need not worry about leaving early to beat the traffic. You know those billboards that say, "If you lived here, you'd be home by now." I do live here, and I am home by now. So I gave away my ticket to the opening ceremonies in Atlanta and watched on TV—in extreme close-up—as Ali lit the cauldron. Unafraid, in the comfort of my hotel room, to leak tears like a pepper-spray victim, I trembled right along with the champ. It was unforgettable, and I am, all these years later, proud to say, "I wasn't there."