Rah! rah!

OK, so I’m a little late to the 2007-8 NFL football season.

This isn’t news. I am late to any number of things, most recently all the stuff I promised Shoemom I’d have done before she returned from her weekender in New York. Funny, how dishes escape your consciousness, just sitting in the sink like that – I mean, they just look like that’s where they’re supposed to be, y’know?
Besides, years of soap commercials have convinced me that if they were really suffering they’d be emitting little ceramic cries of horror: “Mold! mold! aiiiiieeee!” But no, ours just stack themselves neatly, seeming as content as clams to be covered in, well, clams and stuff. I do not wish to blame the victim at any time, but there is clearly a lack of initiative in the case. I blame dependence on the godlike Mr. Clean, or possibly that goofy lady who gave Palmolive uppity notions.

…er, yes, I have spent the last few days alone except for a couple cats, why do you ask?

Thus it was, as a matter of fact, that my long-dormant instinct for American football was as recently revived – yeah, it was still talking to the TV, but at least the subjects were human. More or less. Jury’s still out on a few offensive tackles, also John Madden, whom I suspect Gund of replacing with a stuffed animatronic replica some years ago.

I say ‘instinct’ because, conventional usage to the contrary notwithstanding, ‘fan’ is really a completely over-optimistic way to describe people who get off on watching large men in bulky uniforms slamming into one another, grunting, then falling down. Oh, there are those who will insist that football is a ‘game of inches’ involving ‘strategy’, but pay those people no mind. Most of them are hoping to become television ‘analysts’, thereby maybe, just maybe, getting the chance to one day slap Terry Bradshaw on the butt and go “Wooooooot!”

That this is probably because the average non-fan is female, I concede freely. Really, as a card-carrying Thoughtful, Rational Woman, I have no explanation whatsoever for my strong instinct to care about the implications of the Packers-Chiefs game re: the NFC North divisional rivalries. I would suggest it all has something to do with those tight uniform pants, but really, have you seen some of those offensive tackles? Ugh.

All I know is, Shoedad had no son on whom to pass down the Lore. The Lore is not in essence unlike Greek myth; passion and excitement and wish-fullfilment on a very fundamental level, tales of legendary warriors, great and heroic deeds, uncanny athleticism, and where the storyteller was that time Joe Theisman’s leg snapped on national TV. Imparted properly, the Lore awakens the Instinct, something that never quite succumbs to mere rationality…not even while watching middle-aged boys bare their painted beer bellies in midwinter Wisconsin. Hey, there was a time when laurel wreaths and shorty togas made sense too, y’know.

At any rate, Shoedad was a master hand at imparting, and frankly would not have known what to do in re: bonding with a teenage daughter otherwise. Plus, I was admittedly kind of chuffed at being considered sharp enough to be admitted to this mystic inner circle of supreme human potential, having at that time never even heard of Rod ‘He Hate Me’ Smart.
So we just kind of fell into the ritual: Watch the game, review the play, compare the play to the Great Play. Explain in detail why it never can match up, primarily due to the absence of The Great Player. Explain what exactly would’ve happened had The Great Player been around. Short version: something beyond the ken of mortal man.
Every version of the Lore has a different pantheon; my dad’s was headed by the great trinity of Montana, Landry and Stabler. If you don’t know who these people are, never mind. The important part is that they were Stars, the guys who played/coached for the flashiest teams with the sexiest cheerleaders (the female playing much the same role in the Lore as in its ancient counterpart). I was raised to consider the ‘big guns’ as practically a different species. I think this is why I eventually grew up to be interested by genetic manipulation; I already had learned to be fascinated by Homo sapiens superior every Monday night.

Unfortunately, however, this is where the Lore sprang a leak. When it finally came time to graduate to a team of my own choosing – ie, to begin amassing Lore of my own – I started giving off serious girl cooties. My mushy feminine heart inclined not to the elite, but the underdog, the quirky, the heartfelt.

(A mock-personals ad I whipped off at the time: Single white fan, female, 19, seeks up-and-coming NFL team for long-term relationship. Should be talented, hardworking, lots of character, fond of long Sunday drives and frequent trips to the playoffs. Ability to dance a definite plus.)

It all came to a head one Sunday afternoon when the San Francisco 49ers battled that quirkiest of all pro sports franchises, the Green Bay Packers…and Green Bay won. I could not suppress my delight. Shoedad could not suppress his disgruntlement. A rift had been exposed that never quite healed…although I was still willing to listen to as much Lore as he wanted to dish out, so we never came to open words. Deep in our hearts, we both knew we were a part of something bigger than petty team allegiances – namely, the chance to drive Shoemom nuts every time we screamed encouragement on third-and-long.

So that was how I became a Cheesehead, as the Pack’s devoted fans are called. Unfortunately my female-ness bars me from actually wearing a wedge of Cheddar on my noggin – or at least that’s what I keep telling myself – but I am as dedicated as you like. Besides the aforementioned they possess possibly the greatest pure embodiment of the Lore ever in quarterback Brett Favre. I defy anyone to follow this man’s exploits even casually and not find themselves smiling indulgently.

Over the last several years, though, I must admit my attention has waned. Lacking a male psyche to independently nurture my Lore, I’m heavily dependent on the thrill of the moment, and frankly the Pack haven’t been providing many of those. That, and my other team, the Buffalo Bills, kept losing Super Bowls. To paraphrase someone famous…to lose one is unfortunate, to lose four looks like carelessness.

So imagine my surprise when I looked up last week and hey! the Pack are 6-1! With not much else to do, I plunked down in front of espn.com to check it all out…and danged if it didn’t all come rushing back. I still belonged. And y’know, it’s really not a bad place to be. Stop by over the next few weeks and you just might catch me dishing out some…ah…explanations of my own.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. anonymous
    Nov 12, 2007 @ 10:34:21

    i LOVE football. seriously. LOVE IT!! but i’m one of those people who Shoedad probably scoffed at who FIRMLY believes that Canadian football with its longer field and 3 downs instead of 4 is infinitely superior to NFL football. don’t get me wrong. i’m the one firmly planted in front of the superbowl every january and have taught my daugters well. but having attended not one but two CFL games this past summer (one in Calgary – wink!)(my first live football…. Calgary football game infintely superior to toronto skydome experience as sun set behind the mountains as my favourite sport took place before mine eyes….sublime)
    heavy sigh….
    just sayin’…there’s only a couple of weekends of CFL left (grey cup in two weeks) give it a shot!
    hugs,
    m

  2. shoebox2
    Nov 14, 2007 @ 00:22:40

    Hee! So cool to discover a fellow female…uh…person with instincts. We’ll have to get together and hash this whole thing out, someday. Maybe over a Grey Cup broadcast.

    You hit the nail on the head re: Shoedad’s scoffage. “They’re not bad,” he would say in the encouraging tone of a US president speaking of, well, Canada; “it’s just they’re not the big leagues. Every player on that field” – pointing at the Argos-Winnipeg broadcast I was trying to while away a not-Sunday with – “you can bet they wanna be where the big boys are. That’s how you know you’re a football player…” yada-yada-I’m-sure-you’ve-heard-it-all-before-cakes.

    Given the quality of the scoffage, I consider it pretty amazing that I do actually really enjoy a CFL game from time to time. Partly because I love watching the passing game above all else (another reason to be a Packer fan; came into my fanhood just as Favre was coming into the league) and partly because, well, I’m from Toronto and not that into hockey. All those residual ‘root, root, root for the home team’ vibes have to go somewhere.
    Besides which…I have always considered ‘Blue Bombers’ the loveliest team name in either league, if not all of professional sports.

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