Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why football is such an odd, odd game - from the perspective of a non-football fan.

My Aunt Margaret recently attended a college football game in which she was thoroughly confused.  The following is an account of her experience given in her own words.  I found it extremely humorous.  (My thanks to my Aunt Margaret for sending it to me.)

On David’s birthday last weekend, we went up to Stony Brook to watch his marching band, and to deliver some goodies to him. It was the last football game of the season, against VMI.

We usually go to his performances, but we most often leave at half time. Bob would probably stay, but isn't really all that interested in Stony Brook football, and I can only take it until half time before I'm about to be wheeled out on a stretcher. So, we hadn’t planed on staying until the end of the game.  

Last time I went by myself. It was homecoming at the high school, and Bob had to be there. So, I went alone. It was also Stony Brook homecoming, and they had a security check the likes of which I'd never been through before---not at the Stock Market after 9-11, not on any airplane--even to London or Scotland, not to get into anything in NYC, etc. It was a serious check of every tiny pocket of my purse. The inspector plowed through my book bag, making me empty my water bottle, etc.  

I was afraid that would happen again this time, and I realized that I had all this food for David. So, I took a huge coat, and stuffed an item in every pocket, and tucked one package under my arm, etc. This time Bob was with me, and he stashed a few items in his jacket pocket as well. When we got to the gate, there was no security of any kind, so I realized I'd done it all for nothing, because, apparently, security was “code red” only for Homecoming.

Well, we’d made it in, and were now ready to watch the show. We were taking the food out of our pockets and stuffing it into the bag I’d brought for David, when some woman walked toward us. At first we thought she was going to scold us for bringing in food, but she said, “Would you like a seat upgrade?”  

Bob said, “No thanks!” But before he could get the words out, she said, “There are prizes.” So, of course, hearing the word, “prizes” always makes me do crazy and undeniably idiotic things, so I said, “What do we have to do?” She took our names and told us to come down to the very front by the cheerleaders right after the kickoff.  

We ended up sitting right behind the Stony Brook football team bench, and next to a group of young Pop Warner football kids who were brought in to do a little skirmish after the band at halftime. We got red bags containing Seawolves t-shirts and flags and a program of the game. They announced our names and showed our mugs on the big screen. It was a little humiliating, but at least it let David know we had arrived. Ha!

It also got me right down near the field where I could ask Bob my many football questions. It’s much better for me when Bob is there, because he can tell me what’s going on. I’m always looking around, and don’t even notice the kickoff. I know I told you all a while back that earlier in the year I was nearly in shock when I saw the quarterback standing on the sidelines at kickoff. I had no idea he wasn’t on the field at kickoff. Revelation number one!

Last game, when I was alone, it was freezing, and I’d only worn a thin jacket, so I spent most of the football time in the nice warm bathroom, sitting on the toilet, reading my book. But this time, in my big coat, I was more comfortable, and Bob was watching the game so I could ask him more questions. Here are some of the things I learned: (Feel free to skip this football talk if you want.)

1. The team members were sitting right in front of us. Defensive? Offensive? I don’t know which ones. A small fellow sitting right in front of me was making all the good plays. I asked Bob if he was the quarterback because I know a few things, and one of them is that the quarterback is usually not a hefty guy. But, no, this guy was a runner of some kind. He made a great run of about 80 yards, and I’m not kidding. But someone tossed up a flag, and they had to do it over. Bob said that whoever made that foul would owe the kid a steak dinner, but I said that the kid would never have made that long run if the first guy hadn’t made the foul. The runner must have had a special place on the bench, because every time he came back to the bench, he always sat in the same spot. Do you think they had special places, or was that a coincidence? I also noticed there was one player walking around wearing two different colored shoes. Bob said he was the kicker and he had a special shoe. But, don’t you think they could get two special shoes that matched. And why wasn’t he sitting down like the other players were? Do you think he was just nervous, pacing around like that?

2. Then I looked out between the bench and the field. Three guys were throwing a ball back and forth. One would throw it. The other would hand it to a third guy, and that fellow would throw it back to the first one. The second guy never caught it. Always his partner would catch it. I thought that was a little weird, and I asked Bob about it. He told me that it was the quarterback. He said the quarterback didn’t want to risk getting his finger jammed. That was sort of hilarious to me. Isn’t that sort of like a woman who’s just had her fingernails done? I couldn’t believe it. These are the guys who are supposed to be so macho! I was halfway expecting someone to prance in with a litter for him to lie on, and some feather fans and people feeding him grapes.

3. Shortly after that I noticed a guy standing behind all the other guys in the formation—at the time they start by pushing the ball under one guy’s legs to another guy behind him. This fellow ran along the back and then shifted from foot to foot like he needed to go to the bathroom very badly. I didn’t pay much attention the first time, but it kept happening. After about 3 times, I thought, “He should tell the coach to send in a substitute so he can go to the bathroom.” But Bob said that one player is allowed to be in motion, but he has to keep in motion until the ball is “snapped.” Who makes up these rules? Why can only one guy be in motion? And, why don’t they just “snap” that ball a little sooner so he doesn’t look so jittery?

4. Then I saw a little net off to the side of the field. Some fellow was kicking a ball into it. Bob said he was practicing. My question is, “Why did they let him come to the game if he hadn’t practiced enough? If one of my piano students wasn’t prepared, I would tell her to wait until the next recital. I wouldn’t put an extra piano in the corner of the stage, and have her practice while the recital was going on. I didn’t get this.

5. Then there was a player talking to someone through his head set. Bob said it was the second quarterback listening to headphones from the assistant offensive back coordinator in the press box. Then the player would whisper the information to the real quarterback or the first quarterback. My question is, “Why doesn’t the first quarterback listen to the instructions himself? What if the second quarterback didn’t hear properly or, like in that gossip game, he mumbled the instructions and the message became convoluted?” I think they are taking a great risk here, that the second quarterback might whisper the wrong message. Especially if the second quarterback wanted to sabotage the first one.

6. I’m still in awe that there are so many players, and that they only have to play half the time, and every few minutes they stop the clock so that they can catch their breath. And there are so many specialists—like one who plays for only about 3 minutes in a game when he makes a kick. If he kicks the ball properly, he’s a hero. Pretty hilarious.

Well, since we left at half time, those are all the questions I had. I’m sure I’d have had more if I’d stayed a bit longer. I didn’t get much reading done either because I thought it would be rather gauche to be sitting right on the front row, reading a book, especially sitting next to all those eager little kids who were trying to grow up to be one of those great players.

So that’s my football story for the day. I think Stony Brook won the game. Bob came home and checked on line.

I have to say, though, that at a football game, I feel as if I might have been dropped from a distant star onto a foreign planet. I just don’t understand anything about it—the appeal, the excitement, the rules, anything!

But, then, I’m sure, if anyone had looked in my bag to see what book I’d planned on reading, they would have wondered about me as well. The title was: A Year in the Life of a Turtle—with Drawings by the Author.


Tammy said...

Hmmm. I'm not a football fan either so I just learned a few new things from this post :) Football is so confusing!

sacdaddy said...

Babe in Boysland said...

Isn't Margaret a great writer? I love her.

I've tried many many many times to understand and appreciate football since I've been married. I've fallen in love with basketball and baseball. And I love going to games! I get excited and angry and loud at basketball games. And I almost always watch the world series with Jeff. But football is lost on me.

Here are the conclusions I've come to: Football is complicated. Football has many more rules and facets than other sports. Football gets VERY boring for the 5-10 minuted pauses inbetween every 20 second long play if you don't know why they've stopped. Having all that time to sit and wonder makes one despise sitting there in the dark. People get injured much more severely in football than any other popular American sport. I've found that almost every serious football fan has loved football since their childhood. Football was an easy way to communicate and bond with Daddy. It's not a baby sport, it's for men. So when a young boy finally can start to understand something about football, they've reached a turning point in their lives. And so generation after generation of children (some girls included) fell in love with football in their childhood, and the sights and sounds and smells all tie into sentimental feelings of bonding with others. If I had also spent the years and years that are apparently required to learn everything about football, then perhaps I might appreciate it too. But I've decided that I've done my wifely duty learning to love two sports that my husband follows, and he can just talk football with you men.

So, I don't hate football, I don't think its stupid to like football, I just have decided after 10 years of marriage that it's not for me. But GO UTES!!!!! Way to be the national champions despite what the stupid BCS says. You deserve that title! I try to be a good sport... :-)

Is my post long enough, or should I type a bit more?