They say every dark cloud has a silver lining, and this unfortunate sabbatical has had several. Today I want to talk about one of them– football. Yes, football. .
I did not grow up in a sports family, far from it. My dad taught me how to play the piano, not how to throw a curveball. We went to see the Symphony, not the Redskins. I saw George C. Scott at the Lyric Theatre in Baltimore, but never saw one game of the 1969 World Series, which was played a mere 20 miles away. Saturdays were spent listening to the New York Metropolitan Opera on the radio, not watching sports. My dad’s idols were Mozart, not Montana, Beethoven, not Butkis. Joe Namath was just a guy who wore pantyhose.
Naturally I did not play any sports in school, either. I was always the last one chosen for volleyball and softball teams. I was the Sheldon Cooper of Glen Burnie High School (but not nearly as smart). My college required two semesters of a sport, so I took tennis. I loved the game so much I took lessons all through law school and during the Missing Years. I played a couple of times a week. But I was never able to get the ball over the net more than three times in a row. I’m not exaggerating. Picture Sheldon’s girlfriend Amy Farrah Fowler trying to play tennis, and you’ve got me. After a while, no one would play with me because I was so bad.
So I never watched sports and I can’t play sports. As a result, I have no interest in sports, either playing or watching. That’s why I like to hike. At least I can put one foot in front of the other, although I do fall down a lot.
I had never seen a football game until I started dating Billy. His family would spend Sunday afternoons watching the Redskins and picking crabs. Since I didn’t watch the game, I was able to pick a lot more crabs than anyone else. Early in my marriage, my mother in law told me if I loved my husband, I would learn to love football. Well, it took me 32 years to do that.
Last fall, Guido was one of the captains of his football team. They had a great team and an excellent chance of winning the state championship. I promised both Billy and Guido that I would attend as many games as I could. I knew that the boys checked the stands at every game to find their parents. I had to be there.
The games were played at 4 p.m. on Fridays, which you would think would be a good time to get away from work. But I spent much of Guido’s first game behind the bleachers, on the phone for work. This was just a few weeks before my breakdown and I know it helped to precipitate it.
When I sat down on the bleachers, I made the mistake of checking my e-mail. I had a message from a VP, who needed me to do some legal research ASAP for a very URGENT MATTER!!. This was at 4:15. I called outside counsel, who was an expert on the topic. I can’t say what the question was, but the answer was a resounding NO. There was a teeny tiny loophole, but counsel said it was a long shot and would require a written opinion from the agency, which would take months. The VP needed the answer by Monday.
When I told the VP the answer was no, he told me to keep looking anyway and see if the loophole would apply. I spent most the game and half of Saturday hopping down this rabbit hole. It turns out that the question had been asked many, many times before and the answer had always been NO. And the VP knew this.
While I was dealing with this pointless fire drill, I missed the first touchdown of the season, which was scored by– yup, my son. I was livid. If the legal issue had been legitimate, I wouldn’t have minded missing my son’s first game as captain. But it was not. The purpose had been to help another VP avoid being embarrassed. I knew then that I could not go on like this, no matter how much they paid me.
Two weeks later I broke down. As a result, I got to watch every one of my son’s games, both at home and away. During the first month or so, however, it was all I could do to get to the games. In addition to depression, I had agoraphobia. I did not want to leave the house.
But now I’m glad I did. I finally began to understand and appreciate the game. Football has a reputation for its toughness, but I realized that good players have to be smart too. It’s still hard to follow, but I’m getting better at it. It helped when I sat next to someone other than Billy who understood the game and didn’t mind explaining things to me.
Guido’s team had a 10-2 record. They beat their biggest hometown rival to make it to the state championship. Even though they lost the state championship game, they had an amazing season. You can see Guido’s highlight tape on YouTube. Guido’s highlight tape.