A Football Story

Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust.
~ Jesse Owens

Disgusted, I throw my 2-7 offsuite into the muck and stand up to refill my martini. "Anyone want anything?" Grunts from the boys. Jonathan pipes up. "Actually, I think I have something you all might want. Two dollars." He bets in, but none of us think he's talking about the bet.

"For reasons I can't begin to explain, I have boxed seats for Pats/Colts this Sunday, and I don't have a date."

I consider whether I'm going to have to cross some personal boundary and fellate him on the spot. "NO...." I cry in disbelief. I fear he is going to make us play cards for them, most likely a very expensive round of Guts or a single hand of Black Jack. He's like that. He and I share a trading background, and once you're on the street, everything in life can be boiled down to bid and offer. But then I realize -- nobody else in the room seems to even care.

I'm shocked. Football hasn't been a poker table topic before. Somehow, in years of taking each others money, we just haven't talked about football. We've talked about sex, politics, small town intrigue, mountain biking, parenting and everything in between. But we just don't talk about sports. I've known that Jon is at least a Monday morning fan, and I'd just assumed the rest were too.

"So, who's in?" asks Jonathan.

Silence. The reality is that all these guys just have better things to do -- the surgeon has to be stone cold sober and wide awake first thing Monday morning. The magazine guy has sales calls to make, and a young wife at home whom he doesn't see often enough as it is. The two photographers in the room, well, they're just not fans. It's not on their priority list to spend 14 hours of their weekend to go watch 60 minutes of football played over 3 hours, 150 miles away. I love these guys like brothers, but this just isn't something we have in common.

"Good lord take me!" I abandon any pretense of cool. While I play fairly tight and unemotional when the poker chips are actually moving around, there's not a hint of stability in my voice. I'm warbling like a baby chick.

I didn't grow up a football fan. I was the fat kid with glasses, sitting in the corner, reading science fiction. Sports were the enemy. The kids who tossed footballs and baseballs around at lunch were the same kids who shoved me into the lockers and made my life miserable. I had no athletic ability, and didn't see the point of watching other people play games I didn't want to play.

This general ambivalence towards organized sports carried through my life until I met my wife. Sunday in her house was ritualistic. Her dad sat and watched the 'niners. It's what was done. I loved my wife. I loved my father in law. It was clear football was going to be important. My wife bought me "Football for Dummies" and I did the best I could.

In 1997, I spent most of the fall and winter living in Sydney while my wife stayed in San Francisco. The Aussies I worked with were fascinated with American football, and knowing I was a New Englander by birth, naturally assumed I was an avid Patriots fan. As I walked into the office one morning in January, barely cognizant that the big game was nigh, they whisked me off to a local pub where the proprietors had laid out a huge brunch spread and a massive satellite TV screen. They started drinking heavily as the eggs were served.

Throughout the game, I was asked intricate questions about the rules of football: why can't they push people from behind? How come they can't grab helmets? Why don't they just lateral all the time? What happens if the quarterback gets tackled in his own end zone? Not wanting to rain on their parade (much more about drinking at 9AM then about making me feel welcome, I suspect) I did what any good manager would do.

I made stuff up.

In the intervening years, I've had an slow but increasing love affair with football. I'm by no means a SuperFan. I've only been to two professional football games in person. The first was a fluke -- the brother of a friend got extra (free) tickets to the Ravens/Giants SuperBowl, and it was too good to pass up, (did I mention "free?") The second was this past Sunday, when the Colts played the Pats in Foxborough, MA. I sat, inexplicably, next to Tom Brady's dad behind the glass on the 50 yard line, with 20 or so high-schmooze businessmen more interested in contacts than the actual contest on the field. Not something that happens more than once in a lifetime.

As I was sitting there basking in my outrageous fortune, eating ridiculous food and drinking Hendricks on someone else's bill (I don't even know whose to be honest), I realized I was lonely. The act of watching this game, while amazing and spectacular, was solitary and at arms length. 70,000 people, and I found myself phenomenally frustrated that the AIM client on my phone wouldn't connect so I could send pictures to my wife, (or harass Certis with a shot of the waitress). I was in a box with 20 people, each there for their own reasons -- watching a son perform, exchanging business cards, or just enjoying the spectacle. But ultimately the connection we shared was as tenuous as that shared by the people in the pressing dark of a movie theater.

But it was still a great game.

Comments

Sounds like the story of much of my life.

I still say it's just rugby with extra padding

I really like the observations at the end in the box and how it contrasts with the intimacy of being crowded into a pub and being engaged with a flurry of questions.

Good story. Do you ever submit these anywhere else?

I could see how being in a box with a bunch of well-heeled strangers would be disappointing. It seems like protocol in those situations is to be sedate and classy, which doesn't make for memorable sports experiences.

About five years ago, I won a box to a Penguins game in a charity auction. Most of my friends aren't particularly... refined, but we all love hockey. Most of us play hockey. At any rate, it looked like security at the box seats had never seen this kind of loud, young crowd invade their territory. We had a great time eating the catered food and watching the game. Even now, I still have people telling me how much they enjoyed that night. It was also the first and last time the charity had that particular prize. I kind of wonder if we scared the donor off. I'm looking into paying out of pocket this year to relive the experience. A box full of friends and fans is a memorable event.

Wow, awesome game to win tickets for, rabbit! Congratulations.

And I'd suggest that, this being the once in a lifetime experience that you recognized it for, you should have screamed your head off, and damn the protocol! I'm still a little hoarse from the Texas A&M / OU game (wherein the Aggies were slightly outscored, which is a shame).

You started with the one-line paragraph "I made stuff up." and fleshed it out from there, didn't you?

Nice story rabbit. Being a fairly new GWJ'er I didn't know you had New England roots. It's a nice era to be a sports fan in New England (my son is getting spoiled and will be shocked when the invetiable "dismal years" return).

I appreciate how much more enjoyable it is to share a sporting event with the right people versus just watching with strangers. As an example Ben (my son) and I watched the Pats/Colts game at a neighbor's house on Sunday. They have a regular group of adults that gets together for Pat's games. My neighbor threw his back out and is very behind on fall yard cleanup. I did an hours worth of cleanup for the guy (a karma thing - figure I'd appreciate the return some day). In thanks he invited Ben and I to watch with them. It was fun - what I'm sure is normally a mature, passive adult sports gathering turned into a frenetic event as Ben called plays, yelled at the refs, blurted "rats" at the turnovers and jumped up and down and high fived everyone on the Pat's touchdowns.

It's all about who you're with.

Great article rabbit! I was a late-in-life football fan too, as I had many similar experiences in high school that turned me off of the sport. Once I made it to college, I really got into football, as it brought people together and gave you something to look forward to every week. With the high school politics removed, its really a great game to watch!

Fedaykin98 wrote:

I'm still a little hoarse from the Texas A&M / OU game (wherein the Aggies were slightly outscored, which is a shame).

Gee, I wonder who you were rooting for...

My friends all gather dust because they're all dead and in my attic.

LobsterMobster wrote:

My friends all gather dust because they're all dead and in my attic.

Why am I not surprised?

Rabbit,

Sounds like you had some good food and some great spirits. You also go to see the BEST TEAM IN THE NFL win on Sunday night.

Bad Chris wrote:

Rabbit,

Sounds like you had some good food and some great spirits. You also go to see the BEST TEAM IN THE NFL win on Sunday night.

You mean the best team in the regular season of the NFL

Fffff....Foot? Ball?

Nice story there Rabbit. You seem to really luck out on which games to see at least. Even if you didn't necessarily get either the best game to see as a fan, nor the best place to watch a game live.

I had a similar aversion to sports my entire life. In school sports was about popularity and obscene competition and full of jerks. When I started skating and playing roller hockey late in college, sports became more about fun and exercise and screwing around with my buddies. Now I play a couple of different sports, all for fun, exercise and the adrenaline rush. I gooned it up good in my game last night, too.

It's great to be there live, but I hear you on having the right people with you.

I grew up in Alaska so there's no major league sports at all and not even minor-league stuff outside of Anchorage. It's all local stuff; maybe high school football in the fall if your school is big enough for a team, and high school basketball and hockey in the winter. Mostly I played rather than watched. The hometown crowd has a much keener edge when everything's frozen solid and there's been nothing else to do in town but get drunk or get laid for the last three months.

I got hauled to a Mariner's game by my frothing freak fan brother-in-law that first summer I moved to Seattle. We went to a local sport's bar which had bought a block of tickets and you eat/drink there and then they bus everyone down to the Kingdome (yes, I'm dating myself here). It's me, my monster-in-law, my 17 year old brother in law, one of her neighbors and a friend of the BIL in a bus with a bunch of 20/30 something already drunken yahoos. The seats were hideous. We were staring at Ken Griffey's back. We were catcalling back and forth with Griffey and the guys in the Boneyard next to us. One of the drunken guys caught a Griffey home run and got him to sign it by tossing it down to him on the field the next out inning. I don't remember if we won or lost that one (I wasn't drinking; I just don't remember). Probably broke every rule in the place, but we raised holy heck and we had a blast.

Next game was with some people from work. Including my boss. Awkward is about all I can say for it. The seats were good, the company refined, and the game was a thorough shellacking for the visiting team. And I still wouldn't have traded it for that first time.

McChuck wrote:

Fffff....Foot? Ball?

Maybe he means that sport played with your two feet, where touching the ball with your hand is illegal. I mean, it can't be a sport where during one hour the foot touches the ball only four five times can he now?

Grrrrr... I don't know why, but I get totally pissed everytime an American refers to football as "soccer", or American "foot"ball (pah!) as "football". All we Europeons believe is arrogant about America is summed up in sports, to me. I think.

dejanzie wrote:

Grrrrr... I don't know why, but I get totally pissed everytime an American refers to football as "soccer", or American "foot"ball (pah!) as "football". All we Europeons believe is arrogant about America is summed up in sports, to me. I think.

It's been over a hundred years now. Maybe it's time to just get over this. These names are simply what the sports are called here; there's no arrogance or nose-thumbing associated with them. And this is coming from a guy who doesn't give a rat's ass for sports of any kind.

dejanzie wrote:

Maybe he means that sport played with your two feet, where touching the ball with your hand is illegal. I mean, it can't be a sport where during one hour the foot touches the ball only four five times can he now?

Grrrrr... I don't know why, but I get totally pissed everytime an American refers to football as "soccer", or American "foot"ball (pah!) as "football". All we Europeons believe is arrogant about America is summed up in sports, to me. I think.

I totally agree. And you know what? I really hate it when British people call sweaters "jumpers". I mean, jumpers are what little girls wear! Those British, using their own words and slang for things. How dare they use their own words, when everybody knows a sweater is a sweater? Just plain arrogance, that is.

Just teasing.

KaterinLHC wrote:
dejanzie wrote:

Maybe he means that sport played with your two feet, where touching the ball with your hand is illegal. I mean, it can't be a sport where during one hour the foot touches the ball only four five times can he now?

Grrrrr... I don't know why, but I get totally pissed everytime an American refers to football as "soccer", or American "foot"ball (pah!) as "football". All we Europeons believe is arrogant about America is summed up in sports, to me. I think.

I totally agree. And you know what? I really hate it when British people call sweaters "jumpers". I mean, jumpers are what little girls wear! Those British, using their own words and slang for things. How dare they use their own words, when everybody knows a sweater is a sweater? Just plain arrogance, that is.

Just teasing. ;)

Yeah, well, over here Baseball is just Rounders - which every kid grows out of by the age of twelve

I with dejanzie on this - over here nobody gets why it's called football when the ball never seems to make contact with a foot. It's like calling basketball 'Above Ground Hockey' or something else tenuously related.

But as I'm not into any of these sports the impact their names have on my life is minimal

BTW - I haven't been following it, but did America win the World Series again this year?
*snigger*

Yeah Kat, a jumper is something to make a master your slave.

Anyhow, this pet peeve of mine dates from my days of lingering anti-Americanism. This has been absolved by sheer ratio and a dive into the awesomeness that is GWJ. This pet peeve has remained though, but I will keep it inside from now on and release the haterade when appropriate. Any coffee grinders around?

I will forever refuse to call football soccer, though

And I do not know how or when to use the words "pet" and "peeve", so I gambled

BTW - I haven't been following it, but did America win the World Series again this year?
*snigger*

Oops, sorry...

Baggz wrote:

I with dejanzie on this - over here nobody gets why it's called football when the ball never seems to make contact with a foot. It's like calling basketball 'Above Ground Hockey' or something else tenuously related.

They should add a part to the game where someone (we'll tentatively call this person a "kicker") tries to kick the ball into a specially designated area (maybe between two posts we can tentatively call "goalposts"). That might spice up the game enough to satisfy the Europeans.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Baggz wrote:

I with dejanzie on this - over here nobody gets why it's called football when the ball never seems to make contact with a foot. It's like calling basketball 'Above Ground Hockey' or something else tenuously related.

They should add a part to the game where someone (we'll tentatively call this person a "kicker") tries to kick the ball into a specially designated area (maybe between two posts we can tentatively call "goalposts"). That might spice up the game enough to satisfy the Europeans.

touché

And lest we forget, a good kicker is almost always the lifetime scoring record holder. As individuals, a good place kicker and a good punter have more impact on yardage and scoring over the course of a career than any other player types on the field.

OK, that may be an overstatement, but punters reliably put up a few hundred yards in almost every game, and it's not uncommon at all for a place kicker to have more points than anyone else on the field. Once could consider the game actually a battle between kickers, with the other guys just getting them in the right place at the right time.

Damn you and your damn details!
Knowledge > Ignorance

rabbit wrote:

blablabla football blabla kick blabla right place blabla

pff... lousy Americans

Methinks rabbit is overstating the important contributions of those who kick the ball. They are wildly important, no doubt, but the game that he saw on Sunday was billed as the clash of the titans between Manning and Brady for a reason.

If someone wants to post a youtube link to The Lonesome Kicker (or whatever it's called), well, that might be a good follow-on.

Laces out, Dan!

Awwwe Fed, I was just tryin' to keep the conversation lively! (it is true that due to the lack of high free agency in kickers and their career length, they tend to statistically be the highest scorers on a franchise's record books, but I conceed the point. Dick.)