Ode to the Pigskin

Football has never called my name. When I watched it, I saw the brutality, the testosterone, the pulverizing repetition.

I avoided it, in fact. All sports bored me. Theatre, poetry, opera, those were the elements that thrilled my soul. In college, I chose friends and boyfriends based on a very simple criteria: no sports. I didn’t want to watch it or hear it.

The only exception was when my brother played football. I promised him that if they went to State that I would dye my hair green, their team’s color. He did and I did and I cheered him on, green pigtails bouncing.

Yet when my college won the NCAA National Championship in 1999, I slammed my window on the rioting outside my dorm, turned up the Maria Callas aria and went back to reading Lord Byron.

I tell you this because sometimes the more profound changes in our  lives happen quietly.

When I first dated my now-husband, he told me he liked football. I sort-of hesitated, but reasoned that as I was 31 and not 21, I could take a chance on dating against type. I figured an occasional football game could be tolerated.

Little did I understand that my guy came from the University of Tennessee tradition: not only would he watch the game every week, he would watch it with a passion. He would shout at the tv. He would listen to the pre-game show, the game, the post-game show and the coach’s call-in show.

I was ill-prepared, to be sure. “What’s a Vol?” said I. He would wake me up to the strains of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band playing “Rocky Top”. And, frankly, I can’t pick a color less flattering to me than Tennessee Orange.

But, despite myself, I was starting to be won over. I would wander down mid-game, book in hand, just to sit by him. I let him paint our basement orange. I learned the words to “Rocky Top” as well as the timing to add the all-important “woo!” to the last line. I started finding our Tennessee garden gnome in odd places.

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More important, I started to realize why it meant so much to the man I married: the history, the pride and tradition. He had watched Tennessee football with his father and he watched it with his son. And now, I was lucky enough that he wanted to watch it with me.

I still struggled, though. I watched, but without fervor or even much interest. I was in the room without being -present-. He deserved better.

And then two weeks ago, I woke up Saturday morning and laid there, looking at the ceiling. I decided I wasn’t going to do half-hearted any more. I wasn’t going to be a football widow; I was going to be a football -wife-.

So I shook him awake and said, “Sweetie, do you feel okay? The pre-game show isn’t on!” And I brainstormed with him about silly Man Cave additions. I showed him my orange socks and deemed them “lucky”. And I went and watched the game and I cheered for Big Orange.

And then I was able to see the passion and the grace, the commitment in believing in something larger than yourself.

And I learned that life is not about closing yourself off to new joys, but finding new ones with those you love.

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Dedicated to Michael, who taught me how to be a proper Vol.

4 Comments

  1. Angie
    Sep 27, 2013
  2. Sophie Moss
    Sep 27, 2013

    What a sweet post! Love that you’ve embraced a passion for football now! I’m a HUGE football fan–so much so that I will listen to the game on the radio if I’m not near a TV. Football has always been a big part of my upbringing. It’s a Sunday tradition, and a really fun way for my family to get together on the weekends. :)

  3. Miranda Kate
    Sep 29, 2013

    Love this post. And I think there might be a lesson in there for me.

    I hate all sports and my husband’s love of football (soccer to you over there) has been a huge bone of contention in our marriage. I don’t get to have Sunday’s with him because of it. But I did try and do what you did – get involved, and go up there to support him, but unfortunately he would stay in the changing rooms drinking beer afterwards, so I would hang around alone for over an hour, and then when he came out he would also just go and talk to his friends, or tell me he would meet me at home. So it didn’t work for me. :(

    But still, you gave me food for thought. xx

  4. tmycann
    Jan 12, 2014

    :)
    This SOOO reminds me of me… I used to mutter about men in tights clobbering each other. But then I met the man who would become my husband. He’d grown up to the Lombardi-era Packers, and that team was the one thing that could at least sometimes give him something to connect with his otherwise wildly dysfunctional family. And I learned that the Packers are the only community-owned team in any pro sport. So I allowed myself to be “colonized” and enjoy sharing the joy my husband finds in his team. We’re coming up on our 16th anniversary, so it’s worked out well for us for quite a few years. :)

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