Football Memories

I would not consider myself to be a sports fanatic.

My father was a sports fanatic. At least he was for baseball and football. I never knew him to take much of an interest in basketball or hockey. He would maintain spiral-bound notebooks full of scores and player stats. As far as I know, it was a solitary passion for him. There were no fantasy leagues in those days, and, as far as I know, my dad didn’t gamble.

What he did do was watch TV. Lots of it. During football season, he was a Washington Redskins fan. In baseball, it was always the Yankees, I think, or maybe the Braves, since we got a lot of those games, too. We had only the one television, and it belonged to my dad. The world could be on fire around him and he would remain glued to the tube (and it really had a tube in those days). And heaven help you if you got in-between him and the set.

I wasn’t much of a sports fan as a kid. I’d rather be out riding my bike or skateboarding or exploring the woods. Or, later, smoking and drinking and cussing and all those other things you’re not supposed to do. Also, I liked to read and go to the movies or the video game arcade or pool hall. You know, stuff.

I did play a little Pop Warner football, and I was on my junior high school football team. I tried out for basketball as well, but didn’t make the cut. But, as much as I enjoyed playing, I still didn’t like watching games on television. It seemed like too passive an activity for me. I wasn’t playing sports to make my dad happy, either, or to allow him to vicariously relive his own glory days. In fact, when my father started getting involved in my extracurricular activities, freely sharing his advice and, above all else, criticism, I quit playing. It was no longer any fun for me. I wasn’t worried about disappointing him, because I was used to that.

As I re-read what I just wrote, I’m aware that it comes off as a bit whiny, which was not my intention. Most of the father-son issues we had were eventually worked out before he passed away. As I grew older, I also gained an understanding of my father that I didn’t have as a youngster, including his love of televised sports.

I’m still not a sports fanatic. I follow football. NFL, not college. And I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan as I have been since Mean Joe Greene was throwing his sweaty game jersey at that kid in the old Coca-Cola commercial. I was never a Redskins fan even though my father tried to keep me decked out in red-and-yellow. I didn’t even realize that the name “Redskins” may be racially intolerant (and South Carolinians know a few things about racial intolerance). The Steelers were my team then and they remain my team to this day. Besides, black-and-gold is a much better combination. The Panthers did not exist until I was about six years out of college and living in Virginia, so I never had a true regional team when I was growing up. My maternal grandparents were Dallas Cowboy fans, and as defiant as I may have been of my father’s wishes at the time, I couldn’t jump on that bandwagon either. I was the only Steelers fan in the family then, and probably today. Here’s to rugged individualism.

I rarely watch entire games until the playoffs begin, even now. I keep up with the scores and the standings. I watch the game highlights and listen to sportscasters argue over minutiae.  And, I’ll actively root for and against teams in certain games whose outcomes will help get the Steelers into the playoffs. I’ll also DVR key games and fast-forward my way through the excruciating barrage of commercials.

What I won’t do is let televised sports interfere with my family. There are lots of things more important that watching football games. If my granddaughter is spending the weekend with us and wants to watch a Hannah Montana marathon, for instance. Okay, I won’t watch Miley Cyrus on any show, if I can help it. But, I will let my granddaughter do so. And, yes, we have multiple televisions in the house, so I could easily watch any game I wanted to without monopolizing the big HD television in the living room. But, the truth is, it’s not always that important to me. You can be a fan without being a fanatic.

Once the playoffs start, my wife will even watch a few games with me. Sure, she may be paying more attention to her iPhone than the game, but that’s okay, too. And, like any good American, we celebrate the Super Bowl. No matter who’s playing.

My initial idea for this post was to explain why I think football is the greatest American sport, but it became something else, a little sports-related memoir. I’m still going to write the other post, I think. Just not right now.

Anyway, the Steelers currently sit atop the AFC North, with three games left to play. Yay, team!

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