Metamorphosis: Not Franz Kafka’s - mine
Lately my wife has been asking, “Where’s my husband and what have you done with him?” She’s been referring to my nearly four-decade metamorphosis from football widower to football fan who actually roots for a specific team.
We’re from completely different backgrounds. Her father was a high school and college referee; she grew up surrounded by and immersed in football, and always has been a rabid Eagles fan. Despite her loyalty to the team, she’ll pull football marathons and watch whatever games are televised. My father was not a sports fan, so the gridiron wasn’t on our TV screen. My maternal grandfather was the same. My paternal grandfather was only into boxing, wrestling and horse racing, all of which he bet on with the local bookmaker. I wasn’t anti-sports. I played Babe Ruth League baseball and, in junior high, soccer. But my exposure to football was pretty much limited to neighborhood pick-up games.
It isn’t that I ever disliked football. I just didn’t care, except for a brief period in the late 1950s and early 1960s when Joe Bellino played for Navy and then the Patriots. My loyalty even then wasn’t to the teams. It was to the player: built low to the ground with thighs like giant sequoias and the zigzagging speed of a scared rabbit.
Other than that, I didn’t care. We were married the day before Super Bowl VIII. Guess what my new wife wanted to do the day after our nuptials: watch football. So we sat on the bed with a bottle of champagne and some snacks and watched the Dolphins defeat the Vikings 24-7. She was really into it. I didn’t care, but watched grudgingly.
So went our earlier married years. She’d watch every football game. I’d either half-heartedly watch or just go off to another room and read or do something else. Our daughters were quickly drawn into the same pattern: not mine but my wife’s. I knew I was in real trouble and truly was a football widower the day I walked into the family room to see my wife, youngest daughter and three-year-old granddaughter on the sofa. All three were animated and loud. I just shook my head and slinked out to another room.
As the years passed I found myself staying, but spent most of my time criticizing dumb rules, stupid plays and bad officiating. I still, however, didn’t have a specific team to root for. I still couldn’t get into the Eagles. I thought every coach after Dick Vermeil was a numbskull and the team reflected it.
We’ve been married nearly 40 years now and with Super Bowl XLVIII on the horizon I suddenly find myself rooting for someone. Not the Eagles, though; the Redskins. It started last year and it’s similar to my years wanting to see Bellino play. I’m not as much into the Skins as I am quarterback RG III. My wife even bought me a Redskins jersey, which I started wearing during the Redskins’ season opener against the Eagles.
With Griffin’s needless injury last season, he isn’t the same scrambler he was when he caught my attention. He doesn’t have the sparkle and is tentative on the plays. I think the rest of the team senses this and play in general reflects it. It probably would have been a better year for me choose the Eagles as the team to cheer. Coach Chip Kelly’s hurry-up, zone-read, multiple-option approach has brought them to life.
But, I won’t be a fair-weather fan. I’ll stick with RG III and the Redskins. It makes life a lot more interesting in the Eagles nest.