Wondering how football entered the consciousness of a girly-girl or even became a topic in her blog??? This odd thread can be traced back to my childhood; probably like a host of other typically male-dominated activities, like barbecuing steaks or raking leaves, both of which I am somewhat of an expert. Considering brothers, fathers, boyfriends, even non-girly-girl girlfriends conduct their football frenzy in the living room, it’s sort of natural that at some point even the most disinterested gets involved. Besides, this magical almost mystical preoccupation becomes something even more when men alone know the rules.
My father wasn’t a big sports watcher, but then again, did TV preoccupy any household like it does now-a-days? Still, the watching of holiday sporting events gained a solid footing among men while women congregated in the kitchen to discuss the timing of the turkey or the potatoes or the pies. My mother, with a string of pearls swinging around her long neck would declare, “This platter needs to be served hot.” I, perhaps at nine, a French twist pinned to my head, holiday dress on, stood ready to walk into the noisy place of men. She’d turn me to finish my bow and to once more go over the very importance of my serving and smiling. She’d hand me the shiny silver tray with the white lace doily arranged that afternoon which now had little puffy baked squares set in rows. I did not need twice telling for this. I loved our house filled with people and smoke and food and cheer.
Still, I wouldn’t know what to expect entering that den. The men might all be yelling, standing and angry, or they’d have a relaxed lead, be casual, ready for the tray of delights I had at hand. Either way I’d venture cautiously into the smoky den, everyone gathered without abandon around the newly colorized 17” screen, caught up in the turmoil of the grainy game, but eventually, I’d find my way away from that manic crowd and climb to the first landing still listening to that unmistakable roar of voices until my mother with her bevy of gal friends would appear in the hallway below with her bell to announce the feast.
When I started high school chance had it one of my three older brothers was a senior. That’s a special card to pull. Even more so if that brother is the President of his class and Captain of his football and track team, all that same senior year. For one thing it meant every saturday my parents tossed us into the station wagon and we spent cold autumn mornings screaming across a muddy field as our boys ran up and then back. I will admit to watching little of the game at first, but there is a cultural pull and joviality hard to ignore, especially when you see your brother’s number 42 catch that long shot and run like the wind to make the winning touchdown. It certainly didn’t hurt that Joe Namath, that athlete turned sexy man, brought the Jets to the Super-bowl around that time and that too colored my New Jersey household.
Cut to years later when a friend taught me the rules of the game, or at least the scoring: the four downs and the points associated with a kick and the basics of a time clock. Oh, simple. Okay. Then come the two sons and their undying devotion to a chosen team; win or lose they love them. They know the players, where they went to school, where they were traded from, whole bunches of seemingly useless information to me, but since ESPN experts espouse the same information for endless hours, I nod in support of their team. The complexity is lost on me, but I’m their fan, if nothing else. Of course, when I mentioned something about liking their team’s costume, the boys roll their eyes and doubt my allegiance.
But then, last year, as I was cultivating some new obsessions, I decided to pick my own team. Of course, when I thought about it for a short minute or two, the Jets were the only choice. In the spirit of fan-dom I acquired a Jet’s beanie and socks and made sure to wear them during big games.
Still wondering why I care at all? I mean, sports are fairly meaningless in the scheme of life lessons, right? So why pick a team, or watch, or care who might be on the injured list, or who has been traded, or whether your team has home-field advantage, or not? I guess, not to belittle the amazing athleticism of these young men, it’s often times a great diversion from life’s more complex problems, and other times the sport mirrors the lack of control I feel; even the shear emotional cliffs you can be brought to through your teams’ triumphs or losses just plain wear me out and I guess I like that too. Rooting for the underdogs, witnessing human error, the disbelief of bad calls, the injuries, just plain mistakes, all cause me to reflect. Indubitably, this soul reflection filters into the workplace and I find commiserating with colleagues over the most desperate of seasons, filling my lunch hours and breaks and hallway chatter. Oh, the zeniths of our Sunday afternoon viewing! There is never a dull moment among football fans, now is there?
Playoff hopes have been dismantled for most teams at this point in the season, but a select few are poised for this first round. My Jets are among them. Of course, as I am posting this before game time, I am cautiously optimistic for a big win, but secretly, I hope they wear those really cute retro green and white costumes when they come out to play this Sunday…! Either way, there will be plenty of cheer coming from our living room.