“ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?” Personally speaking; no. It’s just not my thing. I don’t hate it. I just don’t care. The thought of spending three hours watching a one hour game troubles me. The thought of my sports loving relatives and friends dreading what I might say, however, greatly amuses me. I get asked often why I’m not a football fan. So, I thought my wife Carol’s suggestion to write about it to be timely, especially in light of her watching a game and me having no great desire to rake leaves.
Please allow me to first address the questionable significance of; “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?”. If you weren’t, you would more likely be like me – somewhere else. It seems a rather silly question. Speaking of silly: why is the question now followed by theme music and pyrotechnic displays? When did football join the ranks of professional wrestling? Then again, when did professional wrestling become a combination rock concert and soap opera? But, that is a topic for another day.
I guess my lack of interest stems from my childhood. I grew up small and skinny; the runt of the litter in our neighborhood. My Mother told me that my feet were meant for someone else, since I could trip over dust. I was so klutzy that, although I’ve never fallen down the stairs, I once fell up them! Needless to say, when it came to team sports, especially football, I was the last one picked. That fact developed into me not wanting any part of something in which I wasn’t wanted.
In football, size apparently matters. While some of the players are my size or smaller, the man mountain has grown to gargantuan size! All of these guys are admittedly athletic. But, there are some where the belly seems to rest upon the ground in the lineup – kinda like having their own Pilates ball. I think there should be some distinction between football and sumo wrestling. Of course sumo’s are less concerned about their appearance. Instead of tights, they seem quite comfy in jumbo diapers. In football, there is one gent who appears to be a little uncomfortable with his appearance in spandex. He attempts, quite in vain, to cover his derriere with a towel. Then, the guy behind him peeks underneath!
I also attribute good sense in not participating, even after having been chosen. I remember my high school gym class. Somehow, the LORD’s sense of humor came out, when I found myself having gym the same hour as half the varsity football team. There was one instance in which they gave me the ball. Notice that I said; “one instance”. This was supposed to be touch football. I knew however, that the mountain of flesh barreling towards me was going to do far more than reach out and touch me. I did the only logical thing; I threw them the ball. The gym teacher, who was also the varsity football coach and a former marine drill sergeant was not amused. I found the moment profoundly educational. Up until this moment in my life, I was not aware that we have veins located in our temples and foreheads. Also as a English major, I was both intrigued and appalled at his inappropriate use of vocabulary. Wisely, I chose not to correct his grammar at that time. Following his tirade regarding my ineptitude, I was immediately told to run laps. Did he actually think this was punishment? It was the most safe and the most fun I had ever felt in that class.
I have met some players over the years. My Dad was a fan and through business connections, we had breakfast with Jerry Kramer, met Bart Starr, Ray Nietchke, and others. To me they were pretty much what they were; just guys. Now, you pay big bucks to meet “stars” and have them scribble a mostly indiscernible autograph. Back then, they seemed pleased to be asked. Bart Starr is still a gentleman. Perhaps this short list of names clues you into the fact that I grew up and live in Wisconsin. Yup. This is what they call Packer Country. Myself? I’m from Pennsylvania and am therefore able to restrain myself from wearing a cheesehead.
I guess that takes me into a different topic; fans. Football fans are … well … different. I mean that in the nicest way. They have found something which they are passionate about and unashamedly they demonstrate this. Nowhere does this seem more evident than in and around Green Bay. Houses, cars and sometimes people are painted green and gold. This appearance is maintained year ’round. But it becomes especially evident during the season, which happens to be in fall and winter. When I was a kid, my Dad took me to a couple of the games. Frozen Tundra doesn’t mean a thing, until you experience it in person. I remember little or nothing about the game. I do remember having every piece of winter clothing I owned upon my body, making me resemble the Michelin man, or perhaps one of the aforementioned overweight linemen. I was also covered with a heavy horse blanket. The only part of me which was exposed was my eyes and I swear they were frozen solid! Why do I mention this in context of Packer fans? Because at every game, there are some guys with no shirts, showing off painted on green and yellow G’s. Don’t they know that shirts, jackets and sweats are available with the same logo and they can be worn without the fear of severe frostbite.
I have found Packer fans to be, for the most part, quite friendly. I took Carol to a couple of the Packer Fan Fests, held at Lambeau Field. She enjoyed the talks, lectures and interviews. I enjoyed the tour and watching the fans. There were autograph session as well. You had to stand in line for specific players. Me, not following the sport had little idea who was signing what. But, knowing that Carol would appreciate the effort, I waited through a number of these. I found that I could fit in quite nicely. Whenever football came into the conversation, I would mention that I was just there for my wife, who was listening to an interview. Oh? Did you know that women, even Packer fans, think that’s pretty nice? I immediately was “what a nice guy!”. Then they found out that I am a magical performer and I began doing card and coin tricks for them. My wife came to join us, expecting me to be bored out of my mind and found me having a great time. She stayed closer to me after that.
Perhaps, another factor of my disinterest in the sport was my self awareness. I was somewhat bookish, shy and reserved. Oh, I had a temper which came out in times of self preservation; like avoiding being placed in a locker or set in the drinking fountain, as some students ended up. But, mostly I just wanted to be left to myself. That persona does not coincide well with team sports. I never felt part of a team. I also felt that my lack of skills would let the team down. They would be better off without me, pretty much sums up my feelings. My propensity for self preservation in giving them the ball, pretty much summed up their being in agreement – they were better off without me.
Just how do rivalries occur? I somewhat understand the centuries old feud between the Campbell’s and Donald’s in Scotland. That’s family. But, in football, the players are subject to trade at any time. So, how can a Packer be a rival of the Vikings, when they just might be a Viking in the near future. Notice, I didn’t mention any names. I’m not here to stir up any controversy. Keeping track of a favorite player must be tough in some cases. I have trouble even keeping up with the current roster. It’s sometimes like a real life “Who’s on first?”. At the first fan fest, Carol wanted me to go down to the pro shop and buy an 8 x 10 of Donald Driver, while she kept our place in line. I need a gps to find my way out of our driveway. Now, I had to remember that she was on the 4th floor at Lambeau, as well as Donald Driver after hearing a multitude of other player’s names. So, off I went reciting a mantra of “4th floor – Donald Driver” over and over, until I returned, photo in hand. To this day, if we hear “4th floor” anywhere, we break into laughter and reply “Donald Driver”.
Now, as long as I’m here…. what’s with the hair now days? I would love to see Vince Lombardi’s face as he is confronted with a mass of dredlocks protruding from underneath helmets! Weren’t jocks in high school the ones with the closely shorn heads? Weren’t they the ones who ridiculed those of us whose hair styles were influenced by the Beatles? Now they look like the offspring of Medusa running down the field. It seems to me, an open invitation to grab hold and give ’em a tug. If a penalty is called, they could blame it on some kind of a flash back to flag football.
So, thirty odd years later, my wife watches football. I don’t. I’m no longer a “ninety pound weakling” as portrayed in the old ads. I’m a two hundred pounder, who enjoys lifting weights. Now, I get a kick out of guys at the gym when they ask if I watched “the game”. My typical answers are made to provoke thought, not antagonism, like they once were. Mostly they stem from sincere curiosity. Really! For example; “Why does a one hour game last three hours?” “Why is a quarterback worth more that a halfback, or a full back and why is there even a nickleback, but no dimeback?” and “What’s with getting a penalty for “pass interference”? Isn’t keeping him from catching it kinda the point?!”
There are those who after reading this will say; “He knows more than he’s letting on.”. I never said I don’t know. I just don’t much care. I think it’s great if you find enjoyment and escapism in it from life’s sometimes hectic pace. I do the same – just in other ways. For example; I have found that the best time to shop hardware stores is during a Packer game. The clerks practically fall over one another to wait on you and releave their boredom. The service is outstanding! So, while Carol watches the game, I go shopping – in a most manly fashion.
I admit that I sometimes help her with her fantasy league team. Last year she even won! The family asked why I don’t have my own team. My response was; “Well, if it’s a fantasy team, I want The Hulk for my center, the Flash for my running back, Ironman will make a great tackle, since Spiderman looks best in spandex I think he should be tight end and of course Superman is my choice for quarterback.” I’ve been left alone ever since.