As this year’s football season officially closed out Sunday in joyous fashion with our New York Giants pulling out another thrilling victory over the Pats, it made me think about how much our house has recently become truly obsessed with football. Mommy and I are both getting glimpses of what it will be like around here with four males rooting for sports instead of just one. Needless to say, we have slightly different reactions to that realization, but to her credit, she’s at least talking a good game about preparing to ramp up her sports IQ. While time will tell if that happens or not, what seems most likely is that we will have a much larger huddle on the couch for the big games than we used to!
The passion for the pigskin really started late this summer when our first grader played flag football, starting with the entire month of August with four night a week, two hour practices and a season that didn’t wrap up until mid-November. As an assistant coach, I should probably say that I signed up for flag football too. As we’re quickly finding, if your kid signs up for a sport, it is really the whole family that signs up for better or worse. His experience playing flag (which as I may have stated before is a lot more contact than the name flag would imply) emboldened him to daily challenges to his older brother for afternoon games of tackle football in our backyard. Sometimes with their plastic helmets, sometimes not. Either way, their Mother has decided that she can’t watch as they roughly pound each other into the dirt with glee. I have to give them credit, they very rarely come in crying or yelling and seem to find ways to work it out on the field. I keep a more closeful watch from my office window perch when I see their little brother chasing after them, but so far he’s only gotten clobbered once or twice…
Sensing this new found enthusiasm for football, my VA Tech season ticket holder father-in-law brought my son to the Tech / Miami college football game in Blacksburg midseason. This was the boy’s first experience at a big time football game. It didn’t hurt that the 60,000 fans in the stadium were rocking as the game went down to the final seconds and had the announcer saying it was one of the best game he’d ever seen. Needless to say, after his big game experience, he wore Hokies gear all the way up to the NFL playoffs when he switched over to Giants gear.
As the NFL regular season wound down, the boys both started to understand why Daddy studies a particular part of the newspaper more than others during breakfast and they started asking to look at the Sports section. Now that they can pretty much read, they’re really interested to see the standings. I’ve tried to explain to them that football standings don’t change on a daily basis like baseball. They’re also very interested in the betting line which they found printed in the paper, prompting me to instituted a formal no betting policy throughout the household. I’m not sure they understand that the team that is “favored” isn’t guaranteed to win.
Reading has also helped them get into another thing that was fun for me growing up – card collecting. As a long time baseball card collector, I started trying to get the older boys interested in it last year. This fall, they started collecting football cards and it’s turned into a regular source of excitement for them. (and possibly me…) I realized quickly that they’re not yet ready to navigate the free market system by themselves so Daddy is the designated commissioner that has to approve all trades to prevent any intentional or unintentional funny business. We’ve finally started getting them into a routine of doing small chores around the house, and the last few months I pay them both a pack of football cards instead of cash. (Which of course brought on the first unauthorized break-in of the football pack stash in Daddy’s office so one of our players is on indefinite suspension) Pouring over their favorite cards really cements into their sponge-like brains the names of the different teams, players and positions. They are incredulous when Daddy doesn’t know the number of a certain player. I’m presented almost daily with the question of which NFL team is going to draft VA Tech’s star running back David Wilson or whether the Packers’ Aaron Rogers or Clay Matthews is the better player. It is hilarious, however, to see my youngest sport his older brother’s Packers helmet and run around shouting that he’s Aaron Rogers.
The biggest thing to suffer with all of this football enthusiasm is probably my Sunday afternoon naps. It’s been much harder to get rest with the boys jumping around on the couch watching the games. But it is fun to have a ready-made fan base to join in the fun. Of course my oldest is usually determined to be a contrarian and root against whoever the rest of us are supporting, but he’s usually good natured about it. Thankfully, he’s still with me in rooting for the Yankees and as spring training starts to draw near in just a few weeks, I’m already looking forward to the boys and I rooting for the Yankees behind enemy lines through a long Virginia summer.
Sometimes I try to think about how different things would be if we had three girls…playing with Barbies, tea parties and princesses. But those thoughts don’t last very long because frankly, at this point, I can’t even fathom it. All I know right now is that my nearly-seven year old was bouncing off the walls Sunday night after he watched Eli Manning holding up the Super Bowl trophy under an avalanche of confetti. I’m not sure who was smiling wider - Eli, my son or me. And if you ask me, that is just exactly how it is supposed to be.