Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why Football Matters to me

On the eve of one of the most important moments in Seattle sport's history I am having trouble concentrating on anything. It feels like Christmas Eve, like Christmas Eve when I was 7. The Seahawks are playing in the SuperBowl. TOMORROW. Holy cow. So I've been feeling super crazy about this whole thing, and was wondering what it was about football that does this to people. So I sat down for the first time in almost a year and started writing. This is how I am handling the pre-game nerves. This is why football matters to me:

I have never been a morning person. From the very first day I was a night owl. I knew the pleasure of sleeping in at a very young age. Even at 5 my parents had to go to great measures to get me out of bed every morning. Except for Sundays.  I knew I could sleep in comfortably without concern of getting dragged out of bed before I was ready.  I also knew that a little after 10am on most Sundays I would get woken up by the sound of my Dad’s booming voice yelling at refs, players, and coaches all who couldn’t hear him, as they were many miles away and only tiny little figures on the television. It was football Sunday. And it was time to get up and go stare at the screen completely unaware of what the heck was actually going on. And yet I sat there. Overjoyed at getting to spend hours of uninterrupted time in front of a television, next to my dad. I thought my Dad was a genius, a little nuts, a little loud, but a genius. He knew the names of players on teams he didn’t seem to even care about. He would make the call before that little yellow flag even had time to hit the ground. I had absolutely no idea what was going on, but it was exciting, and my brothers and I and my dad were doing it together.

As I got older I lost interest as one tends to do. I didn’t know what was going on and I had better things to do on a Sunday. I had woods to explore, and bikes to ride, and an entire classroom of stuffed animals that needed a teacher. But every Sunday, football was the soundtrack to our day.

In the summer before fourth grade a new family moved in next door. A family of all girls. The oldest and I became best friends instantly, mostly out of convenience, but as the years went on out of true love. Her dad passed away when she was younger and he had been a football fan. So she, as she always did, carried this torch for him. And when she learned I was from Texas and with her being from Michigan, and this being the time when the Cowboys and the Lions really meant something (maybe they still do? Just not to us)…well, these two stubborn girls who loved their dad’s very much, had ourselves a little rivalry. And thus began my second round of football fandom. We would sit on the phone with each other on Thanksgiving, me on our phone attached to the wall, and her on their new fancy cordless phone. We would talk smack as best as 12 year old kids could do as we watched each of our teams compete. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. I had a favorite player for the first time, Mr. Emmitt Smith #22, I had nicknames for other players based on their looks or their swagger. I was learning an important part of football, the talk. Decades later, she is on the other side of the country, we now root for the same team, and we are still on the phone with each other during the games, talking smack against the other team, and long distance holding each other’s hands when things get close.
Football. This funny little game, the weight of all these memories. I can’t wait to talk about this season with Lyla when she is older. Even if she has no idea what I am talking about, maybe it will spark a little fire, a little interest…or maybe she’ll just the get a kick out of us yelling at the TV, sharing the story of the 2013 Seahawks, the silly superstitions her parents did every Sunday. And then maybe, years and years from now, she’ll sit wondering why she even cares about such a silly thing like football and she’ll remember… it wasn’t just about the game it was about the connectivity and traditions. And then she’ll go change her shirt because her team is losing and the fate of the season really does rest on her shoulders….