Why One Mother Who Hated Sports Became a Football Fan
Our Family Sports Fanatic
Children Change Everything
Before we begin, let’s get one thing straight: I have never been a sports fan.
Football at Thanksgiving? Never happened. Super Bowl Party? No thank you? World Series? Not a chance. Michael Jordan? Who’s that?
But then my youngest son became a teenager, and despite years of pushing art, drama, and music down his throat, the kid somehow became a sports fan. Or maybe it was in spite of pushing all those cultural interests on him. Regardless of reasoning, he became our family sports fanatic.
And, you know, something strange started happening to me; I began to enjoy sports, too.
It's Good Background Noise
One Fateful Thanksgiving
I’m not sure how this happened, but as with every good story, it’s best to start at the beginning, so let’s go back to last year’s Thanksgiving, which is when I first discovered my son’s clandestine love of sports.
But first, a caveat. My youngest son never liked playing sports. Sure, I had dutifully put him into one sports program after another at the YMCA. This was only for the exercise, mind you; his true enjoyment was supposed to stem from the music and art classes he took.
Except that he refused to succumb to my cultural overtures. And he quit the sports teams early on, too. It seemed he had no interest in anything outside of the virtual world of video games.
But then, on that fateful Thanksgiving, I found a football game playing long after the Macy’s Parade had finished. Figuring the T.V. had been mistakenly left on, I turned it off, but it was on again when I returned to the room.
My son sat in the corner, playing on his phone. He didn’t seem to be paying any attention to the game. I turned it off again, but when I reentered the room, the game had resumed; still, my son seemed to be paying scant attention. Again and again, I turned it off, but soon it would be on again. I began to wonder if the airbnb we’d rented had a ghost.
I asked all the other family members if they’d turned on the T.V. All said they hadn’t. Could it be my quiet son who never wanted to do anything? Of course, it turned out that he was indeed the culprit. But he wouldn’t admit to liking the football game. He just shrugged, saying, “It’s good background noise.”
On a whim, I decided to buy tickets to our local football franchise’s New Year’s Eve game. I shelled out hundreds of dollars for those tickets, but it wasn’t every day I discovered something my reticent son liked, so you bet I was going to subject the whole family to his newfound interest.
I bought those tickets for my son, but that experience changed my entire perspective on professional sports. Before going to that game, I had only ever glimpsed the occasional pro football game played on T.V., but all those oversized men diving into piles just seemed like unnecessary violence to me.
It turns out, seeing live sports is, excuse the pun, an entirely different ball game from watching it on television. It’s comparable to seeing a video of a play or orchestra, which can be mind-numbing, but comes alive when seen in person. The main difference between sports and theater is how loud the audience can be, and thus how loud you can be. Turns out, I like to scream like an idiot on occasion. It soothes the soul, I think.
Do you like to scream like an idiot on occasion?
Football is a Highly Skilled, Intricate Dance
Let the Game Begin!
From the moment we arrived at the stadium on that New Year’s Eve, the crowds were electric, the excitement palpable. And the costumes! People were dressed from head to toe in the colors of their team, even their faces were painted. They shouted and pushed and shoved, but in a convivial manner. All along the corridors, the smells of hotdogs and popcorn wafted, and little kids ran by with snow cones in team colors; I suddenly felt nostalgic for the circus.
We climbed to our seats, which were so high we could see the city skyline. A cool breeze came from the nearby bay, mingling natural smells with the edible odors, and bringing sudden memories of days by the boardwalk along the Eastern Shore. Above, lazy clouds dotted the bright blue sky and seagulls wheeled and called, coming in close for discarded popcorn and dropped fries. Already, before the game had begun, I discovered a beauty that I had never known existed: the unique aesthetic of an outdoor football stadium.
My eyes danced as they absorbed the entire spectacle, for it wasn’t just seagulls and clouds, crowds and costumes. A full scale pirate boat stood below us, with a cannon that later sounded an earsplitting shot every time our team scored. Jumbotrons revealed the crowd dancing, posing, kissing, waving from every corner of the stadium. Air Force jets roared above in formation and the grotesquely large-headed mascot leaped around the field, thrusting his oversized sword at anyone who dared root for the wrong team.
I was exhausted by the time the teams took their place on the field, but the excitement was truly just beginning. The roar of the crowd was enough to send the seagulls screaming into the air when our team ran onto the field. I’d seen plenty of rock concerts in my day, but the adrenaline at that moment rivaled the time I’d watched Prince take the stage in 1984. All for a game. One game. As though there would never be another.
I didn’t understand any of the plays, but the piles of players no longer seemed violent in this atmosphere. Instead, they were almost comical, as though I were watching a Marx Brothers film, or better yet, Buster Keaton. My son explained the game to me, and by the end of the first quarter, I felt like an expert. The team was on the thirty yard line, it was the first down, there was a defensive tackle, a flag was thrown; I had it all figured out. It was no longer just a bunch of sweaty guys in ridiculous helmets haphazardly ramming their way across the field, it was a highly skilled, intricate dance with the quarterback as the prima ballerina and the ball as the oft elusive love interest.
I Purchased Overpriced T-Shirts for my Entire Entourage
A Roar of Triumph
By halftime, the frenzy of football fans was in full swing with everyone in the corridors buying shirts, beer, and bratwurst. Swept by the craze, I purchased overpriced t-shirts for my entire entourage, and now when I see my son proudly sporting his team shirt, I revel in my impulsiveness.
As we returned to our seats with buckets of greasy popcorn and plastic steins of frothy beer, the cheerleaders came onto the field in their skimpy outfits and blond hair, a fact that had me musing over the diverse nature of the football team versus the homogeneity of the cheerleading squad. This, quite possibly, was the only negative in what was otherwise a perfectly positive experience. Still, the overly airbrushed young women succeeded in keeping the audience eager and excited for the game to carry on.
When the team returned to the field for the second half, I was roaring right along with the crowd. The team was on a roll, scoring one touchdown after another, the cannon blasting each time while “We Are the Champions” blared from the loudspeakers.
Never one to sit well for suspense, I held my breath for what seemed like the entire final quarter. We’d make a touchdown, then they’d make a touchdown. We’d make a field goal, then they’d do the same. The score was down to the wire, though we were slightly ahead. Finally, when flag after flag had made the final five minutes drag on for thirty, the game was over, our team had won, and fans were streaming out of the stadium, roaring one last time in triumph.
Football Remains My Favorite
A Changed Woman
Since that fateful New Year’s Day, I’ve also been to basketball and baseball games with my son. Each one has been unique and exciting, though I’ll be the first to say that baseball does drag a bit, but so does the symphony, which is still a worthwhile experience.
However, football remains my favorite. I even watch it on T.V. now. Having seen it in person allowed me to gain an appreciation for the sport that I never thought I could have. It’s also satisfying to participate with my son, something that we can engage in together. I particularly like it when our local team is playing since it creates a sense of connection with the community that I never knew existed.
And while it is certainly more fun if your team wins, the old adage holds true, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you (watch) the game.” In my case, it turns out that a live performance was the key to unlocking this overly cultured, anti-sports snob’s boxed-in perspective.
So, before I finish, let’s get one thing straight: I am now a sports fan.