It's that time of the year again, men. Get out your Bowling shoes.

We're about to be inundated with those Bowl games. Twenty or so of them in the next nine days. And that means about 40 million of us will not think twice during the holidays about clinging to our converters and parking our keisters in front of our television sets for hours upon hours.We may move off our couches, but only for an instant or two, and only if the pizza man, or nature, happens to call. We men, see, simply must watch football ad nauseum. No ifs, ands or buts. It is essential.

It is a vital part of our existence. I know all this because I have just finished reading a fascinating and mind-boggling new book entitled "Why Men Watch Football," written by a Florida journalist named Bob Andelman.

Andelman interviewed dozens of psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, journalists and fans before compiling his 156-page explanation of why men are downright obsessed with watching football. And Andelman's message is blunt - that football appeals to males largely because it gives them a chance to be separate from females.

What's more, Andelman writes, football can supply males with a feeling of superiority over females. The author quotes Dr. Michael Messner, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, as saying that football provides to a lot of men in this day and age "a place where they are clearly superior and different from women - whereas in all other aspects of our lives there are women moving into positions of power and authority."

Andelman goes on: "Men watching games with other men - and without women - creates a masculine space, not unlike an adolescent's tree house."

Of course, the author supplies readers with a boatload of other explanations for why men watch football, such as:

- The sheer beauty of the game.

"Football is the single most attractive sport we have," says Dr. Thomas A. Tutko, a psychologist at San Jose State University and a director at the Institute of Athletic Motivation. "Baseball is too slow. Basketball is too fast. Hockey and soccer are too confusing. But football stops just enough so we can analyze it and think about it."

- Football portrays men the way they are.

"Aggressive, action-oriented, controlling," Andelman writes. "Baseball, on the other hand, portrays men the way we think we once were or that we would like to be: thoughtful, deliberate, patient."

- Football has military appeal for men.

"Notice how football is steeped in military terminology and strategy," Andelman writes. "The blitz, the bomb, down in the trenches, aerial assault, field generals, quick strike. Military games have a lot of appeal to many men. They involve strategy and calculation; the manipulation of varied components to accomplish a common goal, outsmarting, outwitting, outplaying and outfighting an opponent. Your army exists to battle and win; to achieve its goal it fights both offensively and defensively.

"Football is a military game with military correlates. It appeals to men on that basis."

- Football gives men something to talk about.

"Were it not for football," Andelman writes, "many men would have nothing to talk about. Psychologists have observed that women tend to communicate more freely over a vast range of topics, including emotions. Men tend to be more limited in their communication. Sports, particularly football, gives men something to talk about."

- Football means great gambling.

"You're never certain of the outcome until the game is well under way," Andelman writes. ". . . The business of predicting the unpredictable and seeing whether it will come true is fun. Watching the drama unfold . . . is very gripping and suspense-filled."

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Andelman has a message for women whose men watch football: Leave them alone.

"Railing about a toilet seat perpetually left up would probably prove less aggravating and more constructive for a woman than trying to talk a man out of watching football," Andelman concludes.

Dr. Iso-Ahola advises women to accept football-watching as part of their men's behavior.

"If you start arguing with that, especially if it's with somebody highly psychologically invested in football, that is only going to lead to problems," he says.

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