One of my favorite things about fall is football. Didn’t peg me as a football fan? Four years of being forced to attend every single high school football game for your school (yes, I’m a confessed band nerd) will convert you.
The last years of college and early teaching years found me following professional football closely. I had an uncanny knack for being able to predict any match-up. Too bad I didn’t know about fantasy football at the time; I would have been unbeatable. I actually had other teachers–male teachers–at the school where I taught come to me to do their weekly picks for them. I bet they never told any of their macho friends that they had a tiny, blonde, very girly co-worker lead them to such success.
Now I’m much more interested in college football. I married a guy who went to college in the same town I did, and as our tiny private school didn’t have a football team, I’m a fan of his school’s team instead. Every week we watch the game if it’s televised and keep up with it online if it’s not. This year is the best year our team has ever had, and we have a real shot at a BCS bowl. It’s been really awesome to watch.
I still don’t think I’d be as interested in football, though, if I hadn’t played it myself. I was in my Christian school’s version of a sorority all through college. One of the group’s activities was participation in intramural sports, and we were required to at least attend all the games if not partipate.
Our sorority was notoriously awful at every single sport. We had one girl who was athletic and talented and a few others who could sort of hold their own, but most of us were clumsy and slow. They needed every person they could get to play just so we wouldn’t forfeit the game, even though it was a foregone conclusion that we would lose anyway.
It didn’t take long for them to realize that it was not a good idea to require that I participate in these sports, though. My one softball game found me sitting on the sidelines after my first time at bat because of a likely sprained ankle. When I attended one basketball game, I managed to get hit in the head with the ball while sitting in the stands, proving to them that this is a real problem I have.
I’d told them before that it doesn’t matter how far I am from the ball, it will come straight at my head at some point during the game. I gave them the example of a volleyball tournament I attended with my roommate where I was in the far corner of the stands. The only time the ball made it past the first row or two was to bounce off my head. I avoid sporting events to avoid the head trauma that will surely result. After that first basketball game, they started to believe me.
That didn’t keep me from playing flag football, though. After the first game that I was guilted into attending, even if I just sat in the stands, I discovered I loved it, even when we lost. Another few games in, I found that I didn’t just like it, I was good at it. I’m too clumsy to be a ball-handler, so we pretty much let our all-star take care of all our scoring, but I could be an awesome lineman, particularly on defense.
If you’ve paid attention to football at all, you know that defensive lineman tend to be giants, the largest guys on the field. How did a tiny thing like me succeed at a job the biggest people usually do? By playing smart and taking advantage of my opponent. Remember this was a Christian school. On the first play of the game, I would let the huge girl I’d positioned myself in front of knock me to the ground. I’d get up slowly, as though I was assessing whether I’d been hurt, smile bravely as I took the offered hand to help get up, brush myself off, and get right in front of the same girl again. Do you think she wants to hit the poor, fragile thing as hard the next time? She doesn’t want to hurt me after all.
From there I would use my finely-honed dodging skills I learned in the crowded high school halls and get right around the big girl and rush the quarterback. My favorite moment was when I overheard the other team’s quarterback in a huddle before the next play insisting that they double cover “that little one.” It didn’t make that much of a difference. It was probably the lowest score we’d been beat by ever.
My stint playing football came to an abrupt end one evening, though. I was playing offensive lineman this time and we were trying out someone different as quarterback. I was paying attention to blocking their defense from our very green quarterback when all of a sudden I found myself on the ground with a pounding headache.
I pieced together what happened over the next few hours when my clear thinking returned. The quarterback threw a ball to our all-star, who was playing receiver this time, but the ball never made it. It was a little low and of course barreled right into the back of my head. I’ll be the first to admit that our quarterback at least has quite a strong throw, even if she needs a little work on her aim.
But that just proved my theory about my curse true. When the other girls in the sorority heard about what happened (and the pre-med students determined I’d probably gotten a concussion from it), they never again asked me to show up to a game. I didn’t argue. I kind of like my brain cells where they are.
I’m thankful that this year I can return to my love of football, thanks to my favorite talented college team, even if it’s only through the tv screen.