Autumn is upon us and so is football season, as I have daily proof. I am surrounded by football fanatics.
It started last week when Bryan pointed out to me that the UNM Lobos were playing a rare daytime game on Labor Day, and, he added, we should go. Most of our games are played in the evening, the reason for which I am unsure. While it is true that it can still be hot this time of year, when October games are played in the chilly dark night air, I’m not too inclined to want to shiver my way through a game. Besides, it feels too much like a high school game when it is played at night. Bryan got the tickets and we went to see the ESPN-televised game against UNLV. I was impressed by the display of team spirit. Despite the searing heat 33,000 fans dressed in silver and cherry were there rooting loudly and doing the “Lobo howl”. Gone are the days when we attended games with a few hundred other fans, obtaining free admission to the stadium with a canned food donation, which happened frequently when I began my studies at UNM in 1988.
The Lobos won by 2 points, but the game served as a reminder that my sister is not just a football fan, she is a rabid fan. Her screams and living room-pacing are legendary. At one point in the game she screamed so long and so hard trying to distract UNLV’s offense that I fear the poor old couple in front of us suffered permanent hearing loss. The scream started low then gained in magnitude and pitch until it reached a level that only dogs could hear.
Football is the one sport I don’t mind watching. Basketball…forget it, too much like watching tennis. Baseball…too long and drawn out, I get bored by the bottom of the fourth and wish I’d just stayed home. But for some reason, football can hold my interest, so long as it’s a team I like, otherwise why bother.
I was groomed to be a football fan early on, though. Growing up in northern Ohio, we were good little Browns and Buckeyes fans from an early age. My wayward brother somehow became a Notre Dame fan; we’re not sure how that happened. We learned all the words to the “other”, obscenity-laced Michigan fight song at age 8 or 9. (Yes, that version! Cara would have learned it at around age 5!). I knew all the NFL team names and my father would entertain his beer-hall buddies by having me recite them with promptings. Him: Detroit. Me: Lions. It’s always a nice thing to drag your daughters along to the bar to delight your cronies, a childhood memory that now makes me think I should have sought therapy.
I had a set of pom-poms and cheered for the Buckeyes. I could sing the Ohio State Fight Song (the real version). I learned about fumbles and penalties. But I didn’t have the same passion that my sister acquired. And she took her obsession to deeper levels. She recently admitted that she had a wild crush on Brian Sipe, then stated matter-of-factly, “but then every little girl who loved football was in love with Brian Sipe.” Uh, yeah, and just how many of you little football-lovin’ girls were there?! Her Ken doll was “Brian”. In football season if we were out playing with the neighbor kids, she would dart home before the opening kick. She quickly acquired rivalry hatreds, and we could scarcely mention Cincinnati or Pittsburgh without a diatribe about the shortcomings of those cities’ teams. Her dog is named Bernie. (As in Kosar.) When the Browns were unceremoniously snatched from Cleveland, she wore black to work in mourning. When Cleveland acquired a new team she beamed, “Light has come! Football has returned to Cleveland!” She really ought to get a job with a team and get paid for her fanaticism.
Bryan is no less enthusiastic, just quieter. He will ditch whatever plans or commitments he may have made if the Browns or the Buckeyes are on TV. He will, on occasion, try to help the team out by diving off the sofa to grab for a fumble or try to catch a pass, but he’s usually more sedate, offering frequent “go, go, gos” or moans of disdain. He spends hours of his time online reading about football or in front of the TV watching football. It scarcely matters what team is playing. His home office is a shrine to Ohio State, with posters, photos, a piece of the stadium, and a votive candle in front of a statuette of Woody Hayes. When games are not going so well, he brings the statuette into the living room and places it in front of the TV, hoping to turn the tide.
Football freaks, they are. For the next few months I will be remembering the words to the Buckeye Battle Cry, making snacks, and watching games. In my house one has little choice; one must give in and join ranks. And get a pair of earplugs - my sister’s screams are deafening. As some poor old couple in Albuquerque can testify.
copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider