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The Long Road to Loving Football

January 28, 2010

My first Grey Cup party, I was fifteen, there were beers in barely cold tins (even though the Winnipeg fall had long since delivered snow), there were boys and men, and my best friend Penny, who was barfing by 7 p.m. I remember nothing about the football game, except that the guys kept shouting at Penny and I to get down, move left, stop sticking our heads in front of the TV. It’s possible that during halftime, Penny and I invented a dance routine to go with our inebriation, punk-rock hair, and mocking attitudes. It’s probable this routine was poorly received. It’s unlikely the boys understood we were poking fun. And, it’s certain they let us dance all we liked because each time we high-kicked, our skirts flashed our bums.

My relationship with football  goes back further than fifteen, though. Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ place meant getting jacked on pre-supper treats, darting around the ravine with my brother and cousins, and the sound of Sunday night football on TV: crowds cheering, whistles blowing, my uncle scolding refs for their so-called shitty calls. The game sounds slunk from room to room, a tandem current running alongside roast beef and boiled greens. I remember the players’ modest pads, shrimpy helmets, bubble-shaped bums and pointy feet, and how shiny their satin uniforms seemed, even after skidding through ten grass-stained downs. Linesmen holding up orange and yellow lollipops and gesturing in sporty semaphore.

Football registers again in 2006, the year I decide to join a writers’ group, and hated every minute of every meeting, except the one where another slouchy, socially awkward writer and I hit it off. He coached me to keep going with a novel, toldme that the well-known key to success goes something like, “Shit, shit, shit, shit, gold.” He can’t remember if a famous writer wrote that, or if it’s stuck in his head from some awful corporate team-building exercise where success through perseverance was the bottom line. He talked about his own book, then revealed that he makes a living writing sports columns and game commentary, that unlike me (prone to writer’s block and hours spent pacing, staring, throwing pens, and swearing at the blank computer screen) he simply cranks the words out and pares them down later on. Grey Cup was approaching, perhaps two weekends away, and over pints of beer (him) and ounces of gin (me), he explained the game in excruciating detail, from yards to downs to penalties to scoring, the difference between CFL and NFL rules, the importance of particular strategies and plays. At first it felt like listening to someone describe a math equation, then I fell into paying attention, in an interested rather than obligated way.

I can’t say I remember much of what the writer-guy told me, or that I now sit through more than the occasional game. But, I am excited about more than the snacks, the halftime shotgun contests, roast suckling pig, shouting, staying up late on a Sunday night and feeling crappy for work come Monday morning. If you talk to me about players, stats, famous moments and famous figures, great touchdowns, or the subtleties of the game I’ll probably give you the space-cadet face. But not because I don’t care–because I need you to stop with the chit-chat, get your head outta the way, pass the processed crazy junk food that’s bound to stop our hearts, and spare me your dance routines till after the game.

(it should be noted that this post was inspired by this one over here…check it out…)

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 6, 2010 1:27 am

    You are more manly than I.

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