Monday, January 19, 2009

Football. You Bet.

I grew up deep in Steelers territory. My dad was - is - a Steelers fan, but more importantly perhaps, he was - is - a football fan. Even growing up in the era of the Steel Curtain I could just never catch on. With the advantage of hindsight, I think I've figured out why. As a young girl, trying to share my dad's interest, I would snuggle up next to him on the couch and try my hardest to watch - to learn - to understand this game that he loved. But I could never properly follow the action. He would change the channels back and forth from one game to another, following as many games as were being played. I would feel like I was just on the brink of getting it and he would change the channel.

Monday Night Football would've provided a good opportunity to just sit down and watch one game all the way through, but my sister and I were banished to my parents bedroom during those games. My dad and my Uncle Will would watch the games in uninterrupted-by-little-girls-and-their-silly-questions manliness. We were sent upstairs to watch the much more kid friendly lineup of All in the Family and Maude. Right on, Maude. I don't actually recall why I didn't utilize post-season to watch complete non-channel-changing games. Perhaps we were similarly expelled from man-land. Or maybe by that time in the season I didn't care anymore.

At any rate, it wasn't until I married Tom that I really learned to watch and like then love then become obsessed with football. The keen observer will perhaps notice that I said when I married Tom, not when I met him. Because Tom was not a football fan. A very lovely moment in our pre-marriage relationship occurred one Thanksgiving when he and I had decided not to visit relatives, but rather to enjoy our Thanksgiving feast just with each other. I asked if he wanted to watch the game and he asked if I wanted to watch the game and we hemmed and hawed a little bit until one of us said what we were both thinking: "there's a Beavis and Butthead marathon on MTV..." 'Cause we like stuff that's cool. And we hate stuff that sucks. Eh. Heh heh.

No, Tom was not - is not - a football fan in general, but he has some team loyalties. He loved the Jets, (I came of age under the Steel Curtain in western PA, he came of age in New Jersey during the Joe Namath era...) but he also loved the Eagles. And after the opportunity to watch the first uninterrupted games of my life, so did I. In the early years of our marriage, living in what he called the Atlantic City suburbs and I called the Philly suburbs, I became a ridiculously obsessed Eagles fan. I remember sorting my laundry in those days into whites, darks, greens and pinks. (Lea was a baby at the time. Baby girls receive a lot of pink clothes. Stay with me, here...)

I went from not being able to follow a game at all to being able to follow one on the radio - if I was unfortunate enough to have life get in the way of actually watching a game. Before Lea could speak, we would say, "TOUCHDOWN!" and her little hands would go up in the air.

I finally - for the first time in my life - understood the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I experienced the pulse-racing tension followed by elation or disappointment. I. Got. It.

When we decided to move to Ohio, we hadn't really considered the fact that we wouldn't be able to watch every Eagles game anymore. We moved in January, so it wasn't something we really needed to think about for another 9 months or so. When we DID think about it, we decided we'd better pick a more local team to follow, if we wanted to watch weekly games. Columbus, of course, doesn't have a pro team. We have a college team - you may have heard of them - and this town is ALL about the Buckeyes. Pro loyalties seemed to be split between Cleveland and Cincinnati. And Pittsburgh, but we didn't learn that till later. TV coverage, we soon learned, was also split. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We decided we'd follow Cleveland (while maintaining loyalty to Philadelphia first, of course. If you can't watch the team you love, honey, watch the team you're with. Or something like that.) This decision, for me at least, was based largely on the fact that when I'd been pregnant with Liv - I've mentioned before that it was a high risk pregnancy - Ty Detmer's (QB for the Eagles at the time) wife's pregnancy was being monitored at the same clinic. Ty was moving to Cleveland to play with the Browns. It seemed like fate. Or something. So we tried to follow the Browns, but realized very quickly that our local affiliates were not going to be consistent about airing the games. If there was conflict between a Browns game and a Bengals game, they would show the one who was doing better at the time. It wasn't often the Browns.

It all started getting jumbled up again and I pretty quickly gave up. I just don't care about football anymore.

Post season this year I perked up a little bit - it looked like there was a good possiblility that my father's team - the team I'd tried so hard to love as a girl - would be facing the team who'd taught me to love the game in the Super Bowl. THAT would've been big fun for me. I headed into the final play-off games full of anticipation and excitement.

And then I was reminded of that agony of defeat part.

So, I might not bleed black and gold, but I think I've still got a Terrible Towel stashed around here somewhere. I'll watch the Super Bowl all the way through. And not just for the commercials.


Bass Is Life said...

For the record, we lived in central PA when the Jets were hot. I was just old enough to get caught up in the whole Joe Namath thing, and it never really left.

Living in Columbus has really killed football for me. I was really into the Eagles game yesterday, to the point of actually hurting my neck jumping and yelling when they scored. But then when they lost, I lost all interest in even watching the Steelers game.

Maybe if they would drop the BCS thing and go with play-offs in college games, I could get behind it more.

Shannon Baskind said...

I grew up a Cowboys fan. (I secretly rooted for the Saints, as I've always called Louisiana home, but they never gave me much in return.)

I became a Browns fan after watching Art Modell (spit...spit...)rip the heart out of the city and move the team to Baltimore. I immediately began to root for the CITY of Cleveland to get their team back. Once they did, I kept rooting for them, and I've never stopped.

(By the way, the Ravens won a superbowl the following year, which I still believe belons to Cleveland - and that is why I HATE them so!)

I wonder what my girls will think of football when they're older. As usual, you've given me food for thought. Thanks!

Swine said...

Considering I married a Browns fan, I really had no choice. And truth be told, rooting for a loser team makes more sense for me. Something about loving what you are. But growing up I was a huge Pittsburgh fan. My favorite jammies were black and gold, baby.