A very long time ago, I decided that I should learn about football. My former father-in-law, who was a wonderful man and quite the sports enthusiast, spent a lot of time watching sports. He was very kind and loving toward me, and I thought, after his wife passed away, that I should get to understand one of his primary interests in life. I thought we should bond.
I grew up in New York, a short distance from Shea Stadium, now Citi Field, where the Mets play and the Jets used to play before they moved to New Jersey. It was part of Flushing Meadow Park and actually the first game the Mets played in 1964, they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates. I only mention that, not because I care one iota, but because my mother was a fierce Pirates fan. I attended one of the longest double headers in the Mets history. The second game went into 16 innings. It ended after 1 a.m. I went to the game with two boy cousins and their dad. It was fairly traumatic for me since I didn’t have a clue as to what was happening, and they refused to leave until the bitter end. They often tease me, even now about that evening. I refused to attend a game for many years after that, or at least until I could drive myself home.
I went to one hockey game of the New York Rangers, playing the Minnesota North Stars. I watched someone get removed from the stands by the EMTs after he got hit in the head by a flying, out of control puck. That was enough for me. I saw the Celtics once, in the old Boston Garden. It was very late in the spring, and where we sat it was about a thousand degrees. The sweat was pouring off the players, onto the floor and it made squeaky sounds as they ran in their knee highs and short shorts. A long time ago. I went to one college football game when the Fighting Illini (the U of I) played the Wolverines (UMichigan). I’ve never seen a tennis match, boxing match or polo match. I did attend little league games when my youngest son played several seasons and then played pony league. I have been to my share of Red Sox games and I am the mother of a season ticket holder but clearly he did not get his enthusiasm from me. When he was ten, we went with my parents and some of his friends and their parents, to Fenway Park. My mother completely got into it and spent much of her time there trying to get the crowd to do the wave. She had adopted the Pirates, many years earlier because a large group of cousins were always talking about baseball and she wanted to have a team to root for. The Pirates at the time were pretty much always in last place. Yet, she was stalwart in her affection for them and when they won the pennant in 1960 (?) and people sent her telegrams to congratulate her since her loyalty was known far and wide.
Back to my father in law…he was sitting in the den watching a football game, per usual. I took a seat next to him on the couch since he was sitting in the comfortable arm chair. He didn’t seem to notice me walk into the room and sit down. I stared at the screen, willing the knowledge to just jump off the screen into my brain. Nothing was happening. I sat quietly and then, in an attempt to kind of jump in, like in jump rope, I said “So Dad, that guy, number ” “, what is he doing when he runs around and knocks over the other guy in the other shirt?”. He ignored me. I don’t take hints easily. I got up the courage to go over to the television and now point and ask another question about the players and what they were doing. He told me nicely “Honey, move away from the television” and he did not take his eyes off the screen. I heard a sigh. I went in for the trifecta of annoying questions and said “How come they are fifteen minute quarters but the games go on for hours?”. I was actually curious. At this point, I could feel the heat off of his forehead as he turned and smiled. It was a polite but quite irritated smile. He walked over to the television and turned it off. He proceeded to walk out of the room. I caught up to him, because I just can’t leave things alone and asked “Dad, where are you going? The game is still on”. He turned to me and said, “I am going where you are NOT going” and headed up the stairs to his room when he visited us, and the door was shut rather firmly. He came down later and nicely told me that we would not watch football together, ever, and that if I wanted to learn about the game, he was not the guy to talk to. He gave me a hug and a look that said he meant it.
I took those words to heart back so many years ago. I recognized that I would never be a fan of sports, and never that interested in reading about it or learning about them. I can carry on a conversation for about three minutes and somehow, despite my lack of attention, I do seem to have synthesized some basic knowledge of things I don’t actually care about, ever. My FHB enjoys his share of the “game” in various sports. I like it best when he turns off the volume and watches. I don’t ask too many questions since I try to keep my lines of communications clearly about things that are important in the scheme of life…” Do you want coffee or tea? Peanut butter for lunch, okay?”. Some days I hit a homerun, touchdown or goal. Impressed? Don’t be. It’s just a game, right?