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football for dummies

September 8, 2011

[Happy September, and welcome to Chasing Maybes.  In this little corner of the universe, I challenge my preferences and prejudices, one Trivial Pursuit category at a time.  Join me this month as I look at maybes in the Sports and Leisure category.  Come on along… it’ll be fun.]

So, I came of age in Texas, spending years steeped in the hero-worship — the religion —  that is high school football.  At my high school, anyway, football players and cheerleaders were cool… and, hey, I wanted to be cool.

As I have unfortunately proven with my failed attempt at handstanding, though, I lack (and have always lacked) the talent and the fortitude to be Texas cheerleader — a breed fluent from toddlerhood in the language of gymnastics, gravity-defiance, and competition.  I could, however, dance, so I joined my school’s high kick line, a Rockette-like group that performed during the halftime shows at football games.

This is not my dance team. These are the world-famous Kilgore College Rangerettes, who are way better than we were, but all my photos are packed.

The team, awesomely called the Lancer Dancers, was ruled by the iron fist of Ms. S, a tiny despot in bright red lipstick.  Ms. S was as infamous for her malapropisms as she was for her tyrannical rule (my favorite Ms. S-ism was,”There is a fine line between spirit!”  Inside, I silently cried out, “AND WHAT, MS. S?  SPIRIT AND WHAT?”), but she created an award-winning team year after year.  As much as I laugh at the image of myself in nude pantyhose, green eyeshadow and an outsized side ponytail, high kicking to “Day Tripper,” I really loved being a Lancer Dancer.  Performing before a packed football stadium, marching band buoyant behind us, thrilled me.

Truly, I loved every aspect of those Texas high school football games:  the pounding drum line, the chill in the air, the rattle of feet on stadium seats, the school mascot stirring up the crowd… I loved all of it.  It didn’t matter that our football team was never any good, or that I had absolutely no understanding of how the game was played.  I never wanted to know any more.  The energy of being there was intoxicating.

And here I sit, twenty years older and with two sons of my own, vividly recalling the sights and sounds of those Friday night games.  We have returned to high school football country, and my role has changed from performer to spectator.  My task now?  To make sense of the rules of the game, to familiarize myself with player positions, and (ultimately) to become conversational in football-ese.  I’m thinking small, here, but I’d like to be able to watch a game and discuss it intelligently.   One tool for the journey:

Who you calling "dummy?" Oh, yeah.

It stands to reason that if I enjoyed the atmosphere of football games as a big-haired teenager (I promise, if I could put my hands on a photo of myself in my Lancer Dancer get-up I would post it… I can’t even find one on Facebook), I will like games that much more as an adult who appreciates what the heck is going on.

What do you think?  Any recommendations for where to begin my football  immersion education?  Oh, and any suggestions for keeping my little Texan boys concussion-free over the next fifteen years, out of shoulder pads and safely frolicking in the lands of golf and tennis?  I welcome your feedback.

On a serious note, the people of central Texas welcome your prayers and healing thoughts as wildfires rage on in this part of the state.  If you are moved to help, click here to learn how.

Here’s to kicking off the weekend a little bit early.  Happy Thursday, y’all, and thanks for showing up.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris S permalink
    September 8, 2011 9:57 am

    my suggestion is to pick one pro team and one college team and fully invest yourself in their season. you’ll learn football along the way. get to know the personalities of the coach, the quarterback, the linebackers, etc. you’ll find yourself caring about how they’re doing. you’ll want to know why and how they’re being successful or unsuccessful. you’ll start to develop opinions about how things would work better. you might find that an easier way to really learn all the rules of football rather than trying to pick it all up like a textbook/class exercise. i’m not at all sure how to dissuade your boys from taking up football – tough thing to do if they’re going to grow up in TX. the more that is being learned about repeated concussions affect on young people, the more worrisome it is.

  2. September 11, 2011 7:44 pm

    thanks so much for the advice, chris. i totally agree about the concussion research. after reading a newsweek article a few months ago about the link between repeated concussions and suicide in football players, i decided tennis and golf are definitely the ways to go for our boys. we’ll see how that works out :). hope you guys are doing well, and hope to see you soon!

  3. September 14, 2011 9:46 am

    Don’t forget swimming, track, soccer, basketball or even wrestling for your sons. As far as learning the art of football, I like the idea of choosing one pro team and one professional team. Given your location, I would go with UT and Dallas. It’s an immersion strategy. Ask your husband to explain the roles of individual positions. Fantasy will be good for that. Also, a basic understanding of stats can help. For example, Tom Brady threw for over 500 yards last the weekend. That number doesn’t have much value unless you know that a quarterback who throws for 150 yards is considered to have a solid game. 300 yards is a great game. 500 yards? There aren’t adjectives for that kind of game. I’d also try to learn how turnovers and penalties can make or break games. The Cowboys were winning by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Victory was in hand, but Romo fumbled at his own 1-yard-line and then threw an interception. Turnovers will help you appreciate those teams who don’t lose possession of the football. It’s not luck. It’s a discipline issue. Teams with the smallest turnover rate usually rank in the top 5. Watch the true talents, too: Brady, Cam Newton, Michael Vick, DeMarcus Ware, Revis Island, the Jets defense and so on.

    Finally, watch SportsCenter and Football Night in America. They’ll break it down for you.

    • September 15, 2011 4:21 pm

      Megan, thanks so much for the detailed response. This is really helpful, and a good reminder of all of the resources I already have at my fingertips (I always forget about SportsCenter!). I’ve been advised by my N.C. friends to keep an eye on Cam Newton, so will definitely do so. Hope you are doing well.

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