I’ve always been a football fan.
I grew up in the midwest in a family of University of Michigan graduates. I had no choice about which team and which sport.
Grandpa Greiling’s 1974 Christmas Card, I’m the tallest of the little ones.
Dad used to tell stories of his high school football career, ended with a knee injury, but his sister hotly contests he had one at all. He was a storyteller, and preferred a good story over truth, so I think I’m siding with my aunt on that one.
When I was about seven, I made my dad to buy me a football, and I think we even tossed it around once or twice in the front yard. I was trying to make up for him not having a son. The funny thing is, I don’t really remember watching football games with him, except maybe the Super Bowl. He was usually moving, he worked on Saturdays and we did more structured things on the Sundays we were together.
In college, I played for the Princeton University Women’s Rugby Football Club. So, I got kinda close to that seven-year-old’s football fantasy. My dad and stepmom even made it to New Jersey a few games (from Michigan). I liked the toughness of it, both how it was and how it sounded to others. Tackling was a lot more fun than it looked, and I learned that the fear of falling can be much worse than falling, as the ground can be pretty soft. There was a downside, though, I blew out my left knee in a practice in the fall of my senior year. No more ACL = end of rugby career. It was fun, though, and because it was largely out character, it was world-expanding.
My husband and I got to know each other through UofM football. In 1993, each of us ordered student tickets as incoming first-year grad students. We had a few common friends, but we struck up a friendship through sitting together in the student section. Though it took us several more months to notice the attraction and several years to marry, Michigan Stadium figures in our courtship. Every now and then we go to a game, if tickets happen to come our way.
In season, we loaf around on the couch on weekends. He settles in for a long Saturday of college football, followed by a Sunday of pro football following his fantasy team’s players. I kind of drop in and run off, unable to vegetate on the couch for really long stretches. I bring in projects (laundry, knitting, holiday cards) and settle near him for a while, til I get restless and have to go get something accomplished. Out of season, I miss that unstructured together time. Our interests don’t always overlap, so it is nice to share the sport, enjoying the ups and downs of each other’s teams, becoming absorbed in moments of athletic prowess or transcendence, mocking at the commentators mangling English and overusing stock phrases.
It’s a rough game. I sometimes feel self conscious about the glitz and the money and the violence, like I should be opposed to it, like it is inappropriate or unseemly. It’s funny. My parents’ relationship was…troubled, even violent. My mom got out, and my sister and I were better for her leaving and taking us, even though all our hearts were broken. I think because our mom left, she broke the pattern for us, and my sister and I chose good, gentle guys. Both those guys have a “football habit.” Now, the only violence in our homes comes on the weekends through televised football games. Not bad at all.