When I was a kid, first I had a thing for Joe Namath, and those underdog (Wally Cox) NY Jets that I liked so well had showed those Baltimore Colts and Johnny Unitas just how the game was played, and I was at the Isaac’s house and they were from Baltimore, and Colts fans, and I was like, eight or something, and cheering like a madchild, and Ann and Susan’s (the Isaacs kids) old man was about to blow a fuse, and I didn’t get it at all, him about to blow a fuse, I just dug Broadway Joe.
I’m pretty sure the fuse blew once or twice as I cheered, all alone in that crowd, for Joe and the Jets. Mr. I, the AA guy, was likley longing deeply for one of those long abandoned beers, something I didn’t learn until much later. Some explaining had to follow that game, from my mom, about how you shouldn't cheer on your team too vehemently when visiting the other team's house or some such.
I'm not sure I learned that lesson, even if I do recall it.
But after that, and what more brings it to mind, are those Pittsburg F*cking Steelers, the next team I was really into, and not because of some pretty boy quarterback with bad knees, but because of the team, Terry Bradshaw, Lynne Swan, and Franco F*cking Harris, from Mt. Holly, NJ, that town I was born in.
Franco F*cking Harris went to high school with my brothers. So did his brother, Mario. And the Pittsburg F*cking Steelers was a team that just went out there and did it. Franco and Mario were Eyetalians, or at least their mother was, a war bride, the Big War, and they were also of some African heritage, which is vast, diverse, shared by all of us, but mostly, what they were, was guys from Jersey, as was their father, a man of color, who ended up with their mother and kids in Jersey.
The New one.
My friend Ed was totally into the Steelers as well. While he was from Steubenville, OH, he’d wandered into the land of Steel as a young man, he told me he understood, intimately, shucking steel like a slave, he didn’t last five long years, but he’d shucked, and one of our last conversations before he died involved him lamenting the fact that he couldn’t make the trip to Tempe to spin his Terrible Towel at the Steelers one more time before he died.
He’d called to say goodbye.
Bradshaw was long gone, my interest in football pretty much gone, too, an interest not yet reborn, even if it was kind of a stillbirth, that second go round, my attachment to Pete Carrol’s Mighty Trojans at USC as short lived as my attachment to the guy for whom those Mighty Trojans were like family, certainly they were supported financially like family, and they won by God (that Guy was big in the Trojan family, too), even if not always honorably, that was the American God's Way, honor not all that big, not nearly so big as winning.
Or some such. The thing with the Trojans was mostly about how childlike the man friend du jour became when it came to the Trojans. He never was one, other than the marching band sort, just like his father before him, a Mighty Trojan who played in the band and cheered on The Team. But the thrill of the game, every week, unless a buy week, a sad weekend time, those buy weeks, was something there, all season long, something to be anticipated all week, mourned all summer, the new season awaited with a low level thrill akin to that darned Rapture that kept not showing up as scheduled, because when it came down to it, one could depend on Saturday College Football way more than on Sunday God.
Life is funny that way. Football has rules, I learned them young, a few have changed over time, but not all that much. The Sunday God’s rules never did make a lick of sense to me, or not more than one or two of them, and then that book that they were presented in was, after all, just a book, and there were so many contradictions and rule breakages and the Sunday God was such a douchebag so frequently in the storyline that I lost interest in it and him way before I lost interest in football.
I’ve not watched football in quite some time. I did a few Trojans games, on TV, not in person, but still, I can appreciate a well executed play, a beautiful pass, a great catch, a running back who just bloody well goes, can’t be stopped. Or the guy who can fake, and shift, and run like the wind, leave those pursuers in the dust.
The team though, the tribe, and it’s funny, because in some circles naming a sports team for Native Americans is totally offensive, and I suppose if I were Native American I might get it, or I might not, my niece loves her tribe, totally loyal, win or lose, not football, that team is baseball, but her football team, named for a plant part, and I’m quite certain the plant is not offended, any more than the Steel Workers were offended, because well, they’re kind of being honored, right?
But I can’t say. What I can say is that in every instance I’m aware of, football is kind of about love. Sure, for some folks, it’s about money, I guess, but mostly it seems to be about a team, supporting a team. It’s not about hating an opposing team, it's about loving the home team, and for the most part, most folks are pretty good sports.
To some people, yes, football still matters. Why not? When the world is spiraling out of control, when environment is dying right before your eyes, when people are shot in the streets for being the wrong color, or dressed inappropriately (oh, the stories I can tell about presentation of self, this is going to be a theme on my journeys, for sure), why not care about football?
Of course, caring about players might be more important. Head injuries. Super short careers, or an entire life built up to no career, at all. No other options. The guy who is about to have his reality show to show us how well he cleans house and how many kids he’s going to father and how rich they all are will be entertaining, I’m sure. For someone. I guess. Why anyone on earth cares about watching that on TV, I’m not sure, but then I don't get the Kardashian's either, and I have former students enrapt by them.
Perhaps loving the big butts is a good thing. Perhaps loving the football player who cleans house is good. I don't know nothing about nothing no more.
Flag football. Frankly, it would be far more challenging, a game more of finesse than of force, and I could likely even get into watching, or maybe even playing.