Infected By Football

When I was seven, I had been out playing Barbies with my little friends down the street and had enough of the girly power trips.  I sat with Barbie in hand while Barbie was ordered around by my sprightly friends.  “I think my mom is calling me for dinner,” I fibbed as I picked up Barbie’s belongings.

It was a Sunday, and that meant a big spaghetti and meatball dinner with my family.  Well, my family and about three of my dad’s good buddies.   My mom, sister and I would sit at the dinner table while my dad and his pals would sit on the couch with t.v. trays coupled with ice-cold cans of Bud as the sounds of whistles, boos and cheers came from the television.  Those were the sounds of professional football.

I noticed something on that first of many increasingly cold Sundays and that was that football was important.  I mean, to sit on the couch and not move except to run up the steps to go pee or to play darts for about ten minutes in the middle of whatever this football thing was, football had to be very important.

So one cool day in November, I sat on the floor next to where my dad sat on the couch and I started asking questions.   What were the flags for?  Why did that guy hit that other guy?  Why did a guy in an opposite uniform catch the ball?  My dad and his friends answered my questions while chuckling.

Some years went by and I was twelve now.  I remember being in English class and our teacher for the day was a substitute.  That substitute thought he’d keep us amused for the whole period by handing us a paper to match “NFL teams with cities”.  I matched all of them correctly in  six minutes.  The teacher couldn’t believe it.  The class couldn’t believe it.  Hell, I couldn’t even believe it.

It seemed knowing football was important.

When the Philadelphia Eagles went to the Super Bowl in 1980 and lost to the Oakland Raiders, I wasn’t too upset because I hadn’t quite grasped the devastation of losing a championship at such a young age.

When the Denver Broncos went to the Super Bowl in 1987 it was five days before my 14th birthday.  I’m not sure when or why I grew a fondness for the John Elway and the Denver Broncos.  Still very much a child, I had hand crafted signs on notebook paper doodled with orange and blue D’s and stick figured horses.  The number 7 was doodled on those pages as well, and even though I was a Philly native, that 7 was not for Ron Jaworski.

Denver was crushed by the New York Giants 39-20 that night in Pasadena, California.  When the game was over I ripped down my signs made with great care and cried.  My mom hugged me as she stroked my long, brown hair.  My dad and the rest of his slovenly crew were guffawing in the front room as they played darts.

I cried myself to sleep that night while I couldn’t get next season off my mind.

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